29. Henry Apsley Pellatt (1835-1905) A Registration of Convenience – using the new GRO ‘mother’s maiden name’ facility in tracing some birth registrations

CNV00036In which we explore another unusual marital relationship (or not) and the parentage of several children, this time of Henry Apsley Pellatt, son of Henry Pellatt and his wife Mary Backler. It all centres around one of the houses above, in Roupell Street, near Waterloo Station in London.

A distraction:  I was meant to be exploring the life and times of my 3x great grandfather, Samuel Backler (1784-1870).  Once before I was diverted from the chronological account of my Backler ancestors by the story of Thomas Meriton Pellatt – or Sargeant, at https://backlers.com/2014/11/06/thomas-meriton-pellatt-or-sargeant-who-is-the-father/   Thomas was the son of Samuel Backler’s oldest daughter, Mary Backler, and her husband Henry Pellatt – or was he?  I described my suspicions in the blog post.

Now, in thinking about Samuel’s bankruptcy in 1831, the topic of a recent post, I have come across some interesting stuff about another of Mary and Henry’s sons – Henry Apsley Pellatt (c. 1835-1905).  I cannot resist writing this all up while it is fresh in my mind.  It illustrates how powerful is the new General Register Office facility to search for births after 1837 by mother’s maiden name.

My curiosity was piqued by my inability to find any record of the birth of Henry Apsley Pellatt’s four children, who appeared as follows in the 1861 Census:

In the Borough of Marylebone, Parish of Old Pancras, 1 Tavistock Square:

  • Henry A Pellatt, Head, married, 26. Proprietor of Boarding Establishment.  Born Middx London
  • Mary Pellatt, Wife, Married, 32. Born Middx. London
  • Mary Ann Pellatt, Daur, Unmarried. 6.  Born Surrey N.K. [registration district not known]
  • Jessy Pellatt, daur, unmarried, 3. Born Surrey N.K.
  • Henry A Pellatt, son, unmarried, 1. Born Surrey N.K.
  • Willm M Pellatt, son, 5 days. Born Middx St Pancras

Additionally were a Nurse, a Waiter, and three other servants, as well as two other families.

In retrospect, I could have wondered why the birthplace of the three older children was ‘not known’, in the County of Surrey.  Why didn’t the parents have this information to hand?

The 1871 Census showed the family far from London, in Hanley, Stoke upon Trent, Staffordshire, at 10 Windmill Terrace:

  • Henry A Pellatt, Head, married, 37. Commercial Traveller. Born [inexplicably] in Richmond, Yorkshire.
  • Mary Pellatt, Wife, married, 43.  Born Middlesex, London.
  • Henry A Pellatt, Son, 11. Born Surrey, Kennington.
  • Mary A Pellatt, Daur, 16. Born Surrey, Camberwell.
  • Jessy Pellatt, Daur, 13. Born Surrey, Camberwell.
  • William H Phillips, Boarder, unmarried, 30, Banker’s Clerk. Born Staffs Leigh.
  • Ann Kelly, Servant, unmarried, 19. Born Staffs, Stone.

By 1881 the family were, at best, difficult to trace.

  • Young Henry Apsley Pellatt and Jessy Pellatt had died.
  • Father Henry Apsley Pellatt is next sighted in Australia, on the occasion of his marriage in 1885.
  • Mother Mary (nee Tull, see below) Pellatt is, I think, found as a Lodger, Music Teacher, married, age 52, born Middx St Georges in the East, in the home of Albert and Elizabeth Paul and their family, at 74 Daneville Road, Camberwell.
  • Young Mary Ann (born 1854) is not to be seen until her marriage on 21 July 1885 to 48 year old Widower, Frederick Martin Howard, Publican, of Camberwell New Road.  Mary Ann is shown as ‘27’ [this is a bit out…], spinster, father Henry Apsley Pellatt, Farmer [presumably, by this time, a farmer in Australia].  Witnesses were Mary Ann’s uncle William Cowper Pellatt and his wife Eliza Ann.  I cannot find anything more about this couple, anywhere!

No birth registrations surname Pellatt:  I could find no birth registrations for the children of Henry Apsley Pellatt and his wife Mary.  I tried FreeBMD, Ancestry, findmypast and the GRO newly-released digitised indexes, all to no avail.  But these children had to be somewhere.

I decided to search just on ‘Henry Apsley’ – no surname.  This search turned up a Henry Apsley Pellatt Middleton, birth registered in Sep quarter 1859, Newington 1d  203. A search for this person on the GRO birth search showed the mother’s maiden name as TULL.  The actual certificate shows that he was born on 8 July 1859, at 15 Allen’s Terrace, Lorrimore Road, Walworth.  The father was shown as John Middleton, the Mother as Mary Middleton, formerly TULL.  She registered the birth, as of the above address, on 19 August 1859.

Searches on the names ‘Mary Ann’, ‘Jessy’, and ‘William M’ revealed that all appeared under the surname ‘Middeton’, mother’s surname TULL.

‘Middleton/Tull’ births: I decided to go back to the beginning of the Middleton/Tull partnership and find all the births registered to those two names – starting with the marriage of Mary Tull to John Henry Middleton, and looking at Census records along the way.

Marriage:  On 25 June 1839 at the Parish Church of St Giles Camberwell in the County of Surrey, John Henry Middleton,  of full age, Bachelor, married Mary Tull, spinster, possibly also of full age (although this is written only once under the ‘age’ column).  He was of Orchard Row, a Slater, and his father Jno Middleton was also a Slater.  She was of Portland Row, her father Jno Tull also a Slater.  The couple both signed the register, as did their witnesses, John Middleton and Elizabeth Middleton [his parents?].

1841 Census:  The 1841 Census finds this couple in Mile End:

John (20) Slater and Mary (15).  Were they really of full age when they married two years previously?

Now for a search on Births registered, using the new GRO indexes:

  • John Charles Middleton (mother’s maiden surname: TULL) Mar 1843 Stepney 02 496
  • Henry William Middleton (TULL) Dec 1849 Lambeth 04 319
    • Death: Henry William Middleton Dec 1849 Lambeth 04 243
  • Harriet Hannah Middleton (TULL) Sep 1851 Lambeth 04 329
  • Mary Ann Middleton (TULL) Sep 1854 Camberwell 1D 438
  •  Eliza Middleton (TULL) Mar 1856 Lambeth 1D 244
    • I believe Eliza’s death may have been registered as Eliza Pellatt, ‘11’ (I am told the GRO register list sometimes lists the figure which should be months, as years…) in 1857 MAR qtr, Newington, 1D 153.  The Newington location would match with the registration of Jessy’ s birth, below.
  • Jessy Middleton (TULL) Sep 1857 Newington 1d 194
    • Death: Jessy Pellatt: SEP 1872. Lambeth 1D 291
  • Henry Apsley Pellatt Middleton (TULL) Sep 1859 Newington 1d 203
    • Death: Henry Apsley Pellatt MAR 1876 Hackney 1b 331
  • William Mill Pellatt Middleton (TULL) Jun 1861 Pancras 01B 43
    • Death: William Mill Pellatt:  Jun 1861 Pancras 01B 29
  • Florence Pellatt Middleton (TULL) Dec 1862 Kensington 01A 9
    • Death: Florence Pellatt Dec 1862 Kensington 1a 13

And finally – giving the game away, with the Pellatt surname …

  •  Frederick William Pellatt (TULL) Mar 1864 Brighton 02B 186
    • Death:  MAR 1867 Marylebone 1A 388

Eureka – the 1851 Census reveals all:  It was only latterly that I thought to check out the Middletons in the 1851 Census.  Lo and behold, there they were in the household of my many times great aunt Mary Backler and her husband Henry Pellatt, the very same couple whose relationship had troubled me when I was looking into the parentage of their [supposed, presumed, or actual] son Thomas Meriton Pellatt, later Sargeant.

The picture at the start of this post is of the houses on Roupell Street, which are in a conservation area and remain largely unchanged today.  They were built between about 1825 and 1835, and were intended as artisans’ conttages – an interesting choice for the fairly large family of lawyer Henry Pellatt AND the Middletons!

Residing at 66 Roupell Street, very near the later-built Waterloo Station, were:

  • Henry Pellatt, Head, married, 55. Solicitor.  Born Surrey Peckham
  • Mary Pellatt, Wife, married, 38. Born Middlesex Islington.
  • Henry [Apsley] Pellatt, Son, 16, unmarried, Clerk.  Born Middlesex Islington.
  • Victoria Pellatt, Daughter, unmarried, 14. Born Middlesex Holborn.
  • William Pellatt, Son, 8, unmarried, Born Middx Shepherd’s Bush.

At the same address, separate household:

  • John Middleton, Head, married, 32. Slater. Journeyman. Born Hartford [sic] Hertfordshire
  • Mary [nee TULL] Middleton, Wife, Married, 28. Born Middx. St George.
  • John Middleton, Son, 8, Scholar, Born Middx St George.

Well, well.  It looks as if Mary (Tull) Middleton was due to set up a liaison with Henry Apsley Pellatt, 12 years her junior, the first child of this union to be Mary Ann Middleton [mother surname Tull], born in 1854 and to appear from 1861 as Mary Ann Pellatt in the household of Henry Apsley Pellatt and his supposed wife Mary.

I cannot find anything other than the birth record for ‘Eliza Middleton’, born 1856, but I feel fairly sure her death was recorded as Eliza Pellatt in 1857 MAR quarter, as described above.

Further children clearly (well, presumably) attributable to Henry Apsley Pellatt though registered under the Middleton surname, are

  • Jessy (1857-1872);
  • Henry Apsley (1859-1876);
  • William Mill (1861-1861);
  • Florence (1862-1862); and, the only child registered as ‘Pellatt’:
  • Frederick William (1864-1867).

A marriage for Henry Apsley Pellatt and Mary Ann Tull?  This marriage cannot be found, but something changed to enable baptism of four of the children in 1867:

  • little Frederick William, on 18 February 1867, when he was three years old and just before his death;
  • Jessy and Henry Apsley on 16 November 1867, at St Marylebone.
  • Mary Ann on 30 November 1867 in St Marylebone

Henry Apsley Pellatt in Australia: The marriage of Henry Apsley Pellatt to Elizabeth Skinner was registered in Victoria, Australia, in 1885.  He died in September 1905, and is buried at St Kilda Cemetery, Victoria Australia.

What happened to Mary (nee Tull) Middleton Pellatt?  I believe, as stated above, that she appears in the 1881 census as a music teacher.  After that I can find no further census records anywhere, nor marriage, nor death.  Hmm….

What of the supposed half siblings, the children of John Henry Middleton and Mary Tull?

  • John Charles Middleton (Mother maiden surname TULL) Mar 1843 Stepney 02 496
    • He married Mary Ann Molland and died in 1936. He worked in the foreign office, after being recorded as a drummer boy in his youth (1861 Census), perhaps reflecting the fact that his mother was a music teacher.
  • Henry William Middleton (TULL) Dec 1849 Lambeth 04 319
    • Death: Henry William Middleton Dec 1849 Lambeth 04 243
  • Harriet Hannah Middleton (TULL) Sep 1851 Lambeth 04 329
    • Harriet Hannah appears to have had a relationship similar to that of her mother.  She took up at some point with George Hagley, Lighterman, with whom she had several children, whose births were registered under the surname of Middleton, with no Mother’s maiden name given, indicating that the births were illegitimate.
    • Like the children of Henry Apsley Pellatt and Mary Tull, some of these children were baptised long after they were born.  No marriage is in evidence for Harriet and George.  For the record, the children were (registered with no mother’s maiden name shown):
      • George Hagley Middleton Sep 1871 Lambeth 1d 292
        • Death: Sep 1871 Lambeth 1d 212
      • Kate Hagley Middleton. SEP 1872, Lambeth 1D 347.
      • [twin] Edith Hagley Middleton SEP 1874 Lambeth 1d 337
        • Death: SEP 1874 Lambeth 1D 200
      • [twin] George Hagley Middleton SEP 1874 Lambeth 1d 337
        • Death: JUN 1884 Woolwich 1d 694
      • Arthur Hagley Middleton JUN 1876 Lambeth 1D 358
        • Death: SEP 1876 Lambeth 1D 205

And then, something changed, perhaps the death of George Hagley’s first wife, to allow the final two births to be registered under the surname Hagley, with mother’s maiden name now shown as Middleton.

  • James John Hagley  DEC 1878  Lambeth 1d 349.  Mother’s surname Middleton
    • Bap. 24 April 1891, Birth shown as 28 August 1878.  Parents George (Lighterman) and Harriet, 48 York Road.
  • Harry Joseph Hagley DEC 1884 Lambeth 1d 361
    • Death: DEC 1884 Lambeth 1d 214

The 1881 Census shows at 48 York Road, Lambeth: George Hagley, 52, married, Lighterman living with Harriet, wife, 29 and three children, Kate, 9; George 7; and James, 3.

In 1891 the couple are at the same address, with children Kate and James, and George’s widowed sister Jane Sharpe, age 65.

George died early in 1901, so in the 1901 Census, Harriet Hagley was a 51 year old widow, a boarder at 4 Vidal Road, Tulse Hill, Reg district of Lambeth.  She died in 1909 at the Constance Road Workhouse in the parish of St Giles Camberwell.  She had many descendants, who can be seen on an Ancestry family tree.  I can pass on  the relevant information to anyone wanting more information.

Alas…no blood relations for me… As so often seems to happen with my family, some of my best record discoveries are of folk who are no blood relation to me!  These various Middleton/Hagley folk acquire some new Pellatt half-siblings and half aunts and uncles, some of whom will have some Backler and Pellatt ancestors.  But in fact, since all the Middleton/Pellatt children seem to have died in childhood or infancy, this may not make a lot of difference.



28. Samuel Backler (1784-1870): a quiet end

In which we follow as far as possible the final years of Samuel Backler.  We mention in passing two daughters Susannah Mary Backler (1817-1883) and Esther Maria Backler (1830-1918), of which more in future blogs. In a previous post we followed the fortunes of Samuel’s oldest daughter Mary Backler (1830-1882)  through her marriages to her cousin Henry Pellatt (of which more to come in the next blogpost), and Waldo Sargeant. 

Alas, the 1841 census for part of Middlesex is missing.  Presumably Samuel, Mary and their two unmarried daughters lived together, but their circumstances following the traumatic bankruptcy in 1831, when they lived in Kensington, are unknown.  Other than at the marriage of his daughter Susannah, the only confirmed sighting we have of Samuel before the 1851 Census is a design registration  of 1847, held at The National Archives as follows:

Reference: BT 45/6/1046

Useful Registered Design Number: 1046.

Proprietor: Samuel Backler.

Address: 4 Cambridge Terrace, Islington, London.

Subject: Spatula.

Category: Surgical and Medical Instruments etc.

Date: 1847 April 28
These are the designs submitted to the Patents, Designs and Trade Marks Office under the terms of the Non – ornamental (‘Useful’) Designs Act 1843.  The quote in italics below is from a presentation at the National Archives by Julie Halls, the Archives’ specialist for registered designs and the author of Inventions that didn’t change the world (Thames & Hudson, 2014).

‘These designs were registered for copyright under what was called the Utility Designs Act of 1843. This came about primarily as a result of the expense and difficulty inventors found in patenting their ideas during the first half of the nineteenth century. The system had become notoriously expensive and inefficient, and there were concerns that it was holding back innovation. An inventor would have to negotiate a labyrinthine system, taking his design to as many as 10 different offices, with a fee payable at each, and petitions, warrants and bills were prepared several times over, signed and countersigned, before a patent was approved. In his short story ‘A Poor Man’s Tale of A Patent’, Charles Dickens asked: ‘Is it reasonable to make a man feel as if in inventing an ingenious improvement meant to do good, he had done something wrong?’

‘A solution came about in the form of the 1843 Act, which was for ‘any new or original design for any article of manufacture having reference to some purpose of utility, so far as such design shall be for the shape or configuration of such article’. Under the Act, proprietors were given three years’ copyright protection at a cost of £10, as opposed to up to £400 for 14 years’ protection for a patent.

‘Although the Act was meant to apply to the appearance and not the function of useful objects, which was still supposed to be patented, in practice it was widely perceived as a cheaper and quicker form of protection than the convoluted patent system, and the law struggled to make a distinction between the two. Thousands of inventors chose to register their designs, resulting in the unique documents we hold at The National Archives.

‘To copyright a design the inventor had to take or send to the Designs Registry, originally based at Somerset House in London, ‘two exactly similar drawings or prints of the design made on a proper geometric scale’. He, or less often she, would also need to provide the title of the design – quite often deciding on a pseudo-scientific name for what could often be quite a mundane object. Explanatory text also had to be included, saying what the purpose of the design was and what was new about it.

( http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/inventions-didnt-change-world-history-victorian-curiosities-2/ )

I have a beautiful photo of the original design of this ‘heated spatula’, copyright by The National Archives, which I can forward for personal use, on request.  There is no sign that this design was ever put into production, but the design itself is a thing of beauty.  The photo, purchased from the National Archives online, is of the original document, which would have been handled by Samuel himself.  Awesome!

The address given on the design shows that the family lived in Islington, where Susannah Mary Backler had married James Boulding in 1844 at St Mary’s Parish Church.  On the marriage certificate, Samuel Backler was styled ‘Gentleman’, the first time we have seen him designated as such. Perhaps he felt the need to keep in step with James Boulding’s father Samuel Boulding, who all along, as we shall see in the future, was styled the same.

By the 1851 census, however, we find that Samuel is recorded as a ‘Clerk’.  (I wonder if this is an error by the census enumerator, as it seems likely that Samuel would have described himself as a Chemist.)  The family are living at 2 Old Paradise Row, Islington, and as we shall discover in a future blogpost, nothing would be seen now or in the future of James Boulding.  The family are listed as follows:

  • Samuel Backler, Head, married, 66. Clerk [sic]. Born Middlesex, Stoke Newington
  • Mary Backler, Wife, married, 60. Born Middlesex Holborn
  • Esther Maria Backler, daughter, unmarried, 21. Born Middlesex Bayswater
  • Susanna Boulding, daughter, 34, married.  Born Middlesex Oxford Street
  • Susanna Mary Boulding, grand daughter, 5, scholar at home. Born Middlesex, Islington
  • Apsley Samuel Boulding, grandson, 3. Born London, Fleet Street

Backler places of residence:  In these times, most folk rented, often on an annual basis, rather than owning their own properties.  While we know Samuel and Mary were in Kensington/Bayswater at the time of his bankruptcy in 1831, we do not know when they moved to Islington.  Once there, however, they seemed to stay quite local, although we have no way of knowing how many other addresses they had than those listed here:

1847: 4 Cambridge Terrace (registered design application)

1851: (census) 2 Old Paradise Row (facing Islington Green, on the north side)

1857: (wife Mary’s death certificate) Rheidol Terrace  (east of, and roughly parallel to Essex Road in Islington)

1861: (census) 14 Angell Terrace (in the block bounded by Rheidol Terrace, River Lane, Lower Road and Queens Head Lane in Islington).  Here, Samuel is found as a 77 year old Accountant [sic], a widower, with his daughter Esther M, 31, single, and one servant.

1870: (Samuel’s death certificate)  11 Maria Terrace  (since re-named Lambert Street, on the census enumerator’s route of Albion Grove (re-named Ripplevale Grove), and Thornhill Road in Barnsbury – can be seen on the map accompanying a historic walk around Barnsbury at: https://www.islington.gov.uk/~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/leisureandculture/information/factsheets/20112012/20120303localhistorytrailbarnsbury

The map below incorporates two old maps, and shows how local the various addresses were, over a period of decades.

Screenshot (145)Maps: http://london1868.com/weller19.htm#image and http://london1868.com/weller18.htm#image  Both maps from David Hale and the MAPCO : Map And Plan Collection Online website at http://mapco.net

An address in Bishopsgate? See: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18340703-106&div=t18340703-106&terms=Backler#highlight  3rd July 1834

It seems to me there is no way of knowing if the court case described in Old Bailey records in 1834 refers to ‘our’ Samuel Backler and his wife Mary.  Here, Samuel is described as a silversmith (not an unusual occupation for someone with an apothecary’s background), and Mary as a ‘staymaker’.  Was this the family’s next step after the bankruptcy of 1831?  An address in the City of London is not impossible, as both Samuel’s and Mary’s origins were related to City Livery Companies, and I am not aware of any other couple in the area known as Samuel and Mary Backler. (Please correct me if I am wrong!)

The gist of the case was that ‘HARRIET BATE was indicted for stealing, on the 9th of June , 2 spoons, value 9s.; 10 yards of crape, value 2l.; 1 printed book, value 6d.; and 1 handkerchief, value 6d., the goods of Samuel Backler , her master.’

MARY BACKLER deposed: ‘I am the wife of Samuel Backler, who is a silversmith , and lives in Bishopsgate-street without , and I myself keep a staymaker’s shop – the prisoner worked for me for about five years, and left – I lost some silver tea-spoons – I mentioned it to her – she said she thought it must have been the servant, who had just left – I said, “No; it is impossible, for I know her well” – she said, “Why did you not look into her box?” – I said, “Because I believed her strictly honest” – I said no more about it then – I gave the prisoner a china crape dress, containing ten yards, to get dyed, as she had said she knew where to get it dyed – I afterwards found it had not been taken to the place, and in consequence of suspicion I gave her into custody – I lost a little book from my work-room, and a handkerchief – (looking at the property) – I know the crape by a tear in it – the spoons have our initials on them.’

After the usual rather dubious evidence from witnesses about various items said to belong to the Backlers, Mary Butt was found guilty, and detained for three months after being recommended for mercy by Mary Backler.

Death of Mary [Pellatt] Backler and burial at Highgate Cemetery. As seen in the address list above, Mary Backler died in 1857, and was buried on 7 February in what would become a family plot at Highgate Cemetery.  I have visited the site, which is in a wooded area, with no stones visible.  Samuel would be buried there in 1870, along with their daughter (my 2x great grandmother Susanna [Backler] Boulding Cross – more of her in a later post) – and some others.

Interestingly, just a few weeks after Mary’s death, Samuel’s half-sister-in-law Susannah Maria [McLauchlan] Backler died in Peckham, Samuel’s half-brother the apothecary and Cupper John Backler having died nearly a decade earlier in Paris.  I have wondered how or if these half-sibling relatives were in touch with each other, suspecting that Samuel and his family might have been seen as rather a failed branch of the family.

Death of Samuel in 1870. As seen above, Samuel died on 24 May 1870, aged 85, ‘formerly dispensing chemist’, and was interred at Highgate Cemetery.  By this time his daughter Susannah, presumed widowed, had re-married; Esther Maria had a child but was not yet married to her soon-to-be Swedish husband; and the grandchildren Susannah Mary and Apsley Samuel Boulding had emigrated to the USA, or were about to do so.

Samuel seems to me the ‘not-quite’ successful apothecary son from a line of apothecaries.  Having never fully qualified as an apothecary, he seems to have moved through a range of occupations, perhaps not very successful with their business aspects, and almost certainly rocked by the trauma of his bankruptcy in 1831.  Marrying well into the highly prosperous Pellatt family, he seemed to manage to have a respectable but not very prosperous life.

And so, we bid goodbye to Samuel.  Future blogposts will look at another development in the always interesting family of Mary Backler and her cousin-husband Henry Pellatt, at an outline of Mary Pellatt’s lineage, and at the fortunes of Esther Maria Backler.  I will also do a short feature on my trip some years back to find the Backler grave at Highgate Cemetery (pretty unrewarding, just so you don’t have raised expectations).  After all that, we will at last cross the Atlantic to follow the fortunes of Susannah Mary and Apsley Samuel in New York City.



27. Samuel Backler (1784-1870), Bankrupt Tobacconist

In which we face the sad task of reporting the complicated affairs of Samuel Backler and his wife Mary (nee Pellatt), as they faced bankruptcy and the loss of money and possessions, while looking after daughters Mary and Susannah Mary, and newborn Esther Maria.  We glean most of the story from papers held at The National Archives in B/3/695: In the matter of Samuel Backler of St James Street, Piccadilly, Middlesex, tobacconist, bankrupt. Date of commission of bankruptcy: 1831 February 21

Our tale begins with a notice in The London Gazette dated 15 February 1831, to the effect that Samuel Backler, tobacconist of 81 St James’s Street, is unable to meet his financial obligations (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/18776/page/302) Screenshot (116)

An insolvent debtor who was also a trader could declare himself bankrupt.  An individual who was not a trader could be kept in a debtor’s prison, a fate which Samuel seems to have avoided.

Here began a process which stretched across the entire year, in which a parade of creditors (including close family) laid out their claims on Samuel’s assets, his wife Mary had to forego part of her inheritance from her grandfather Stephen Maberly, and at least some of the family’s furniture was sold.  The date of 1831 was significant, as the process of administering bankruptcy was changing from Commissioners of Bankruptcy (which I believe was the process under which Samuel was treated) to a Court of Bankruptcy.  I do not claim to be expert!

Information copied at TNA 26 September 2009.  B/3/695.  The information is mainly extracted.  Where verbatim, it is in quotes.  I have poor quality photos of further lists of creditors than are reported in this account – they are not usable, and so I have left them out.  The total in debts was over £1,000, while money due to Samuel Backler was in the low £100s.  The outcome of it all was that creditors were to receive £2 and 5s in the pound.


22 February 1831.  Samuel Backler Tobacconist.  Burwood Rooms   George Maberly, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square Middx. Coachmaker.  Against Samuel Backler of St James’ Street Piccadilly in the County of Middx tobacconist.  £104 – 17 – 4d lent between 1 January 1830 and 1 February 1831: ‘no security or satisfaction whatsoever’ except promissory notes and Bill of exchange.

Note: George Maberly was some sort of cousin to Samuel’s wife Mary Pellatt, though given the number of Maberly families in London at the time, I am not exactly sure of his relationship.  George is probably the George Maberly who eventually became a partner in the famous firm of Thrupp and Maberly.

23 February 1830 [sic –  is this 1831?].  George Cross of 3 Poole Street, Hoxton, Gentleman. Has known Samuel Backler four years, during which time he carried on trade, buying and selling tobacco, snuff, cigars and other commodities of a like nature.  He said Samuel Backler was in insolvent circumstances and unable to meet claims of debtors.  On Monday 14 February inst Samuel Backler came to Hoxton and asked for a bed because he was afraid of being arrested by his creditors for debt if he remained at his own house of residence.  Samuel Backler stayed there until the present, having not returned to ‘his own house or place of business’.

22 February 1831.  Provisional Assignment of Estate to William Burwood of Southampton Buildings Chancery Lane Gentleman. John Beauclerk, Jefferies Spranger and John Dyneley Esquires, the major part of Commissioners named and authorised in and by a Commission of Bankrupt – awarded and issued and now in Prosecution against  Samuel Backler of St James’ Street Piccadilly in the County of Middlesex tobacconist.  S.B. declared bankrupt at Burwood Rooms, 22 February 1831.

22 February 1831 p. 350. London Gazette   Giving notice of the following dates: 25 February, disclosure; 8 March – Assignees; 5 April – finish examination of creditors, agree certification.  On this day Samuel Backler was reported as not at present prepared to make full disclosure and discovery of his Estate and Effects, praying further time until the next day.  25 February:  Still not full disclosure.

8 March 1831. List of Creditors:

  • Gilbert Selioke Edwards, Newman Street, Oxford Street, Coachmaker. Late of Pall Mall.  Executor Thomas Chamberlayne. Had loaned £25 10s
  • Samuel Ward, Piccadilly, tobacconist. £100 – 10 – 10 for goods sold and delivered to Samuel Backler
  •  Henry Pellatt of Ironmongers Hall, Gentleman.  £104 – 8 – 6 money lent and advanced on 25 May 1829, 25 January 1825, 7 May 1828.  [on 18 March 1831, while these proceedings were going on, Henry had married his cousin Mary Backler, Samuel and Mary’s oldest daughter!  They feature in several posts (and one forthcoming).]
  • George Maberly, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square,  Coachmaker.  £104 – 17 – 4
    George Maberly and Henry Pellatt chosen as assignees

On this date, the solicitor’s bill of £40-8-2 to be paid from the first monies raised.  Also the Messenger’s Bill, £14-4-8d

5 April 1831.  More creditors:

  • Richard Vandome, Leadenhall Street, City of London, Scalemaker.  £59 – 5s
  • John Bale [Bask?] Derby Place, Bayswater in the County of Middlesex, Coal Merchant.  Goods sold and delivered £14 – 16

8 July 1831.  London Gazette. P. 1382:  ‘The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing date of 21st February 1831, awarded and issued forth against Samuel Backler … intend to meet on the 29th of July instant at Eleven in the Forenoon, at the Court of Commissioners of Bankrupts at Basinghall-Street in the City of London in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignees of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt under the said Commission, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George Fourth intituled “An Act to amend the laws related to Bankrupts.”

An untimely death:  On 3 June 1831, Mary [Pellatt] Backler’s grandfather Stephen Maberly died in Reading.  The timing of this death was rather unfortunate for Mary, in light of her husband’s bankruptcy proceedings!  Stephen Maberly had made specific provision for his grandchildren in his Will, which was proved on 5 July 1831, with quite a few Codicils relevant to the Backler bankruptcy.  Having initially left £4000 in trust for the benefit of ‘all and every the child of my late daughter Mary Pellatt’ [Samuel’s  mother-in-law], this sum was reduced to £2500 in a codicil, which excepted Mrs Mary Backler.  In an earlier Codicil, dated 12 August 1826, there was to be deducted £250 from ‘Mrs Backler’s share of the property I have left to her, having lately advanced that sum for her husband’ but that Codicil was revoked on 26 April 1827 in favour of the following:

£400 on trust – interest, proceeds etc – to Mary Backler into her own hands for her sole and separate use exclusively of her present and any future husband and without being liable to his debts or arrangements.  On her death, proceeds to go to every her child and children when they become 21, or when the daughters marry.

This inheritance results in a notice on August 22:  The Law Advertiser, Vol. 9:  Special meeting of creditors of bankrupts:

‘Backler, Samuel, St. James’s-st., Piccadilly, Middlesex, tobacconist; Sept 21, at 12 precisely, C.C.B., as to assignees compromising their claim to a legacy of 200l, bequeathed by Stephen Maberley, deceased, to the bankrupt’s wife, by accepting half of such legacy, and permitting the remainder to be settled on bankrupt’s wife for her separate use; and on other special affairs.’

Some confusion?  I am not sure how the legacy of £200 was determined.  In his Will Stephen Maberly had declared the legacy of £400 to be free from any debt of her husband.  Was this £200 Mary’s share of the £2500 left to all the children of Mary [Maberly] and Apsley Pellatt?  I don’t fully understand, as I thought she had been exempted from this.  Apparently not (see below).  Perhaps the £400 would remain at the disposal of Mary.

At the Court of Commissioners of Bankrupts, Basinghall Street London 21st day of September 1831:  Memorandum – At a Meeting of the Creditors and Assignees of Samuel Backler of St James’s Street Piccadilly in the County of Middlesex Tobacconist Dealer and Chapman a Bankrupt held on the day and year and at the place above written pursuant to a notice in the London Gazette of the thirtieth day of August last in order to [sic] the said Creditors to assent to or dissent from the said Assignees compounding their claim to a Legacy of £200 bequeathed by the Will of Stephen Maberly late of Reading in the County of Berks Esquire deceased to the Bankrupt’s Wife by receiving one half of the said Legacy and allowing the other half to be retained by the Trustees or Executors under the said Will for the purpose of Settlement on the said Wife of the Bankrupt for her separate use according to the decisions in Equity in like Cases And further to assent to or dissent from the assignees paying to a party to be named at the meeting the amount of certain premiums paid by him on a policy of Insurance in the London Life Association effected on the life of the said Bankrupt for the sum of £500 with a view to the Assignees obtaining possession of the said Policy And also to assent to or dissent from the said assignees selling and disposing of the said Policy and of any other the Estate and effects of the said Bankrupt either by public auction or private contract and for such terms and prices as they shall think fit And also to assent to or dissent from whatsoever the said Assignees hitherto done or at the said Meeting shall propose to do in reference to the said Bankrupt’s Estate.

The following is a copy of a letter from Mr Apsley Pellatt [Mary Backler’s brother] to the assignees produced and read at the Meeting –

“Mr Apsley Pellatt presents respects to the Assignees of Samuel Backler and acquaints them that he is willing to surrender to the use of the Creditors the Policy of Insurance of His (Mr B’s) life of £500 in the London Life Assurance Office on payment of the premium (he has paid) amounting to £27.13.10  Mr Apsley Pellatt begs also to say that he has no doubt on the Creditors assenting to accept £100 in full satisfaction of the Legacy of 1/11th of £2500 left by Will by the late Stephen Maberly Esquire to Mrs Backler that the Executrix will forthwith pay the same into the hands of the Assignees”.  Falcon Glass Works.  17 Sept 1831

Present the undersigned Creditors

It was resolved and agreed that the said assignees be authorized to pay to Mr Apsley Pellatt the Sum of £27. 13. 10 the amount of the premiums paid by him on the above mentioned Policy   And that they be at liberty to dispose of the said Policy  either by Surrender to the London Assurance Office or by Public Sale or private contract and at such price and on such terms as to the said Assignees may seem meet

Secondly – It being stated at the meeting that the Legacy in question being to the Bankrupts Wife and that the Court of Chancery thro’ which alone such Legacy could be recovered always makes a provision for the Wife out of it, and generally to the extent of one half of the Legacy, It was resolved and agreed that the said Assignees be also authorized and empowered to receive the sum of £100 in full satisfaction of their claim of the Legacy of 1/11th of £2500 left by the Will of the late Stephen Maberly Esquire to Mrs Backler the Wife of the Bankrupt and that they also be authorized to give and sign full and sufficient receipts and discharges for the same

Thirdly – and resolved and agreed that the undersigned do approve of the sale of the Bankrupts Furniture as made by the assignees, and ratify the same accordingly.

Henry Pellatt.  Richard Vandome.  Sam Ward

22 November 1831.  London Gazette. P. 2442.  Notice of the following event: The Commissioners ‘intend to meet on the 23rd day of December next, at Ten of the Clock in the Forenoon … in order to make a Dividend of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt; when and where the Creditors, who have not already proved their debts, are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the benefit of the Dividend. And all claims not then proved will be disallowed.

Account: Cash realised:

Sale of bankrupt’s furniture                                           £20/3
Cash in compromise of Stephen Maberly legacy        £100/ –
Deposit on sale of policy per Mr Shuttleworth           £24/-
Balance from the purchases [?]                                       £96/–



30 Sep Solicitor’s bill re choice of assignees                £40 – 8 – 2
Mr Pellatt’s claim re life policy                                       £27-13-10
Mr Shuttleworth’s charge on sale of policy                  £6 – 0 – 0
Messenger bills                                                                   £20-14-8
Auctioneer charges sale of furniture                             £4 – 14 – 0
Solicitor dividend                                                               £49-13-10
Claim of shopman in full                                                     £5 – 10
Claim of maidservant in full                                              £3 – 0 – 0
Balance to be divided                                                           £82-8-6

£240 – 8 – 0


23 December 1831: More debts!

  • Richard Cater, deceased.  17 September 1827                     £23-8-4
  • William Deighton 71 St James’s Street Tailor.  Goods
    sold and delivered. Work and labour done as a tailor       £22 – 1 – 6
  • Maria Palmer 8 Kensington Terrace, Kensington
    Gravel Pits late servant to the Bankrupt. Wages due.
    Her X.                                                                                            £3 – 0 – 0
  • John Martin, 82 St James’s Street, tailor.  Goods sold
    and delivered.                                                                             £6 – 19
  • William Cousins, 45 Duke Street, St James’s. Carpenter
    Carpentry work                                                                         £6 – 12 – 5
  • James Davies, 106 New Bond Street, late shopman to
    The Bankrupt.  For wages                                                       £5 – 10 – 0
  • John Collier, Carey Street, Lincolns Inn, Gent.
    By judgement HM Court Kings Bench, Easter term
    11th year King George IVth for £500 debt and 65
    shillings costs. Indenture re William Nokes [Noke?]           £203


23 December 1831.  Creditors to get £2s 5d to the £


What to make of all this? Little more is heard of Samuel Backler before his death in 1870, other than his presence in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses and the marriage of his second daughter Susannah Mary Backler to James Boulding in 1844.  We do not know what happened to Samuel and Mary after the traumatic events of Samuel’s bankruptcy in 1831, other than to assume that it did little in terms of good family relationships!  Clearly Samuel was a poor businessman.  Was he reckless, or just unfortunate?    We may never know.






26. Samuel Backler (1784-1870): Family, Thefts and a Changing Career

In which we continue our perusal of the life and times of my 3x g. grandfather, Samuel Backler (1784-1870), tracing the birth and some deaths of his and Mary Pellatt’s children, and witnessing his metamorphosis from apothecary to tobacconist, along with a few brushes on the right side of the law at the Old Bailey.


A growing – and sometimes diminishing – family.  As noted in my most recent post, Samuel Backler married Mary Pellatt on 30 November 1810 at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, the church which was amalgamated with St Ann Blackfriars after the Great Fire of 1666.  St Andrew by the Wardrobe exists today, rebuilt within its Christopher Wren walls after destruction by bombing in the Second World War.

As can be seen in the extract above, it clearly wasn’t sufficient for there to be two witnesses to this marriage!  To the left we see signatures of Apsley Pellatt, presumably Mary’s father, and S Backler (or could this be a ‘J’?) and M Backler, possibly Joseph, Samuels’ brother, and their sister Mary.  Next we see ‘S Backler’, almost certainly Sotherton Backler, Samuel’s father. Underneath is J Backler Jnr – or is this an ‘S’?  Could this be Samuel’s youngest sibling, 12 year old Sotherton?  To the right are Apsley Pellatt Jnr (1791-1863), Mary’s brother, and another brother, Stephen Pellatt (1792-1839).

screenshot-99The slightly fuzzy tree on the left shows the birth of six children.   Young Apsley Backler is something of a puzzle.  I can find no record of his christening, nor of his death.  Yet he appears in a family tree held at The National Archives (J66/10/43), linked to the case of Buxton v Pellatt, a dispute over inheritance and the Will of Susannah [Maberly] Langford.  These papers contain a number of family trees, and I will probably draft a separate blog post about them.  Meanwhile, it would have been logical for a child to be name Apsley, after Mary’s father.  Did he exist?  Any answers most welcome!

First born was Mary Backler (1813-1882), in 1813.  I have looked at her marriage to her cousin, Henry Pellatt, in a previous blog.  Her birth on 25 May 1813 was registered on 21 June 1816 at Dr. Williams’ Library, the repository for non-conformist births, where many Pellatt children’s births were registered.  Witnesses were John Cribb, a Pellatt ancestor, and Mary Pellatt, presumably Mary (nee) Maberly, Mary (Pellatt) Backler’s mother.  Lots of Mary’s!  I have recently discovered a real puzzle concerning the births of the children of Mary and Henry’s first-born, Henry Apsley Pellatt.  Another blog post is needed!

Next appears the mysterious Apsley Backler…mentioned in a series of family trees, all related to the Will of Susannah Langford, sister of Mary Pellatt, wife of Samuel.  I have no further information about him.

Susannah Mary Backler followed on 22 March 1817, born in ‘Oxford Street’, presumably at the 71 Berners Street address where records show Samuel Backler and his wife Mary lived for some years, not far from Samuel’s brother Joseph, the stained glass artist, in Newman Street.  Susannah was my 2x great grandmother and I will devote future blog posts to her and her marriage to the elusive James Boulding.  I have never found a christening record for her.

Samuel Backler and Elizabeth Backler, presumably twins, appeared in 1820, although there appears to be no christening record for them either.  Sadly, both were to die within 10 days of each other in 1822, to be interred in Bunhill Fields Cemetery.

Very much later, the youngest child of Samuel and Mary Backler was Esther Maria Backler, whose arrival on 3 February 1830 was very near the time when Samuel was to face bankruptcy, and his nephew Joseph to be transported to Australia.  Esther Maria was baptised at Holland Road Independent Chapel in the Brixton Road in March 1830, the family’s address given as Linden Grove, Kensington Gravel Pits. Samuel’s occupation was now a tobacconist.  This address, near what is now Notting Hill Gate, was in the early 19th century a favoured area, away from the city, and home to many artists.  The picture below ((c)Victoria & Albert Museum), is entitled The Mall, Kensington Gravel Pits. It is by the artist William Mulready, and dated around 1811-12.

Kensington Gravel Pits 2006BH7808_2500

Esther Maria lived with her parents after her sisters’ marriages, and was only to marry Magnus Christian Abelin in 1870, just months after the death of her father Samuel.  She appears to have been the dutiful younger daughter, living with and caring for her parents in their later years.

Crime and Punishment: Back at Berners Street, off Oxford Street, the early years of the family saw them feature as the victims of some cases at The Old Bailey.

As a first example, I make an assumption (in the absence of an address) that the report below of ‘Elizabeth Butt: simple grand larceny, 18th September, 1816’ refers to Samuel and Mary Backler.  Screenshot (107) It is downloaded from the following url, and is reproduced from the Old Bailey Online Project.  We have already seen examples of how helpful this project is, in stories about young Joseph Backler’s uttering of forged cheques.  1816https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/images.jsp?doc=181609180085

Hannah Barry – transportation for 14 years:  On safer ground, in terms of location and participants, we find the case of Hannah Barry and Mary Murphy, Theft and receiving stolen goods, trial proceedings on 1 November 1824.

Screenshot (108)As seen on the left, the case began with a summary of items alleged to have been stolen by Hannah Barry, servant to Samuel and Mary Backler in their rented home in Berners Street.  The evidence included statements by 12 year old Mary Backler’s cousin Henry, living with the family, and later to marry oldest daughter Mary, as described in a previous post. Following Mrs Backler’s statement that she had ‘missed property’, she said she had ‘sent for Craig, who searched her boxes and found a variety of property’.  The rest of the case was as follows (image and text downloaded from: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18241028-140-defend1298&div=t18241028-140#highlight):

WILLIAM CRAIG . I am an officer. On the 28th of September I searched three boxes, which Mrs. Backler pointed out to me; the prisoner was present; and before I searched them, I asked her if she knew anything of a diamond pin, and a locket which were lost; she denied it at first, and then said she had found the pin, but knew nothing of the locket; she went up stairs with us, one of her trunks was open, and another locked; the third was a small tea chest. I found two stiffners in her pocket; in the open trunk was the trimming, and several things, and in the other trunk several caps and articles of linen; and in her tea chest, I found the diamond pin – she said she knew it was in some of her boxes, but could not tell which. I forget whether the tea chest was locked. I went to Murphy’s house with a warrant, and found a waistcoat, a petticoat, and other things; she was not at home, but her husband was. I afterwards saw her, and she said she had bought them of different people in the street.

Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q. You do not know that to be a diamond pin – A. I am told that it is.

MR.   HENRY PELLATT . I lived at the prosecutor’s house. This diamond pin and locket are mine, and the waistcoat. I missed the pin and locket on the 27th of September; I had seen them two or three days before, and had left them in a box unlocked.

Cross-examined. Q. Are there any children in the house – A. Yes, one of them is twelve years old. I had put the property among some fishing tackle.

COURT. Q. How long had you lived there – A. Three years. I wore the pin every day; the prisoner must have known it to be mine. I paid 13 l. for it about six months ago, to Mr. Fletcher, a lapidary, of Marlborough-street.

(Property produced and sworn to.)

BARRY’S Defence. The box which the things were found in is not mine – I had lent my mistress a trunk when she went into the country, and she gave me one of hers to put my things in. I never saw these things till they were found.

MRS. BACKLER. Two of the trunks belonged to her; some of the property was in them, and some in one which I had lent her, having had an accident with hers, and sent it to be repaired – the tea chest belonged to her, and was locked. and she produced the key of it after some hesitation.

MR. PELLATT re-examined. I have tried the pin, and know it to be a diamond.


Of stealing to the value 39 s. only .

Transported for Fourteen Years .


Hannah Barry was duly transported to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) on The Providence, which left England in December 1825, arriving in Australia on 16 May 1826.  I cannot firmly identify what happened to her in later years.  Once again, the standard of proof in Old Bailey Trials might well raise eyebrows in more modern times!

And finally: there is another case about Harriet Bate, theft, on 3 July 1834.  This date is after the disastrous events for the Backlers of 1830-31, which I will recount in my next post.  The case involves theft by Harriet Bate of goods belonging to her master, Samuel Backler, Silversmith, of Bishopsgate Street.  His wife Mary gives evidence, stating she is a staymaker.  Is this ‘our’ Samuel and Mary, or another?  I am not sure.  The full report can be seen at:  https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18340703-106-defend680&div=t18340703-106#highlight

There is a reference in this case to ‘the prosecutor’s son’.  If there really was an Apsley Backler, this reference could be to him; if it is not him, then this is probably not ‘our’ Samuel, as there was no other surviving son.  I haven’t, though, been able to trace an alternative ‘Samuel and Mary’. Samuel Backler (born in Haverhill) and his wife Elizabeth appear in St Luke’s Parish in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, but he is shown as a Labourer, and I don’t think he is the same as the one in the court case…perhaps!

Moving on: In this post I have tried to give a brief flavour of what might be called the middle years for Samuel and Mary Backler. Alas, their fortunes were not due to prosper, as we will see in my next post, in which I will consider Samuel’s bankruptcy and its apparent impact on family relationships.


25. Samuel Backler (1784-1870). A question of Bark

sam-backler-1784-baptismIn which we consider the life and early career of my 3x great grandfather, Samuel Backler, having reviewed the varied fortunes of his four half-siblings and nine siblings in previous posts.  We follow Samuel as he embarked on a career as an apothecary, like his father, grandfather and half brother John before him.  We see his fortuitous marriage to the eldest child of noted glassmaker Apsley Pellatt, and after what seems to have been an abortive apprenticeship, we witness Samuel setting up in business, perhaps armed with inside knowledge of the market for Peruvian Bark from his and his father’s association with the Society of Apothecaries.   

IMG_3340 (2)Early years: an apothecary apprentice and laboratory worker.  Samuel Backler was the second child and oldest son of Sotherton Backler (1746-1819) and his wife Hannah Osborne (approx 1763-1803).  He was born in Stoke Newington, and baptised at St Mary’s Church there. (The church, left, is ‘the old church’, no longer consecrated.)

No evidence as to Samuel’s education has come to light.  His older half brother John (c.1780 – 1846), and youngest sibling Sotherton (1798-1875), were educated at St Paul’s School, but there is no record of Samuel having been there, nor of him attending university. When he was just two years old the family faced sorrow.  Infant Thomas Backler, aged 8 months, was buried at St Andrew by the Wardrobe on 16 December 1786, followed just two weeks later on the 30th by Samuel’s 9 year old half brother Sotherton.  On 14 May 1791, Samuel’s 2 year old sister Elizabeth was also interred in the church, and to cap it all, his mother Hannah was buried in April 1803 at Bunhill Fields, aged about 40.

Samuel’s older brother John was apprenticed to their father, Sotherton Backler.  Samuel, however, was apprenticed in 1800 to Thomas Hall, but on Hall’s death in 1802, Samuel was released from his indentures and in 1805 gained the freedom of the Society by Patrimony.  The records show that he was in the service of the Laboratory Stock, established many years previously to oversee and control the quality of the manufacture of chemical and plant-based medicines. In 1843, he withdrew from the Society.  He had never fully qualified as an apothecary, though he was surely well trained in aspects of the art through his tenure in the laboratory. We will see that his subsequent career was to have many twists and turns.

Fortuitous marriage: Apothecaries’ Hall was located on Water Lane, very near to St Paul’s Cathedral, whose churchyard housed, among other residents and enterprises, the firm of Pellatt and Green, known as glassmakers to the King.  Here the names of Pellatt and Maberley enter my family tree, with the marriage in 1810 of our Samuel to Mary Pellatt, eldest child of Apsley Pellatt (1763-1826) (the third of six with that name) and his wife Mary Maberly.  The marriage linked two families prominent in their respective Livery Companies.  Apsley Pellatt had been Master of the Ironmongers Company.

screenshot-90Bedford Street Laboratory:  Following his marriage, Samuel set up his lab at Covent Garden’s Bedford Street.  Here he marketed a range of interesting lotions and potions, such as this one for Asthmatic Strontium Tobacco (The Morning Post, 10 October 1811).  Backler was in the forefront of the use of stramonium, derived from the common thorn-apple, in treating asthma.  The history of the use of smoking in treating asthma is fascinating, and can be explored through the following link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844275/

A matter of Bark:  I speculate that another of Samuel’s treatments, Peruvian Bark, might well have been linked to activities at the Society of Apothecaries’ labs, which I was able to learn more about through some sessions a few years back in the Society’s Archives.

By the early 19th century, Peruvian Bark (Jesuits’ Bark; cascarilla; le remede anglais) – or the various forms of cinchona – had become key elements in the maintenance of health in the far-flung British Empire.  First recorded as being used for fever in South America in the 17th century, and thought to have been brought to Europe by the Jesuits, it had become an important trade item.  Historians continue to debate the origins of the name cinchona, once said to have been because of a cure of a fever in the Countess of Chinchon.  Its use in England dates from as early as 1658, when the ague had become endemic in the south-east.  However, its first use at that time resulted in the death of the Alderman of the City of London – not a good start![1]   A decade or so later, however, Robert Talbor (or Tabor) began to use a remedy which included the Jesuits’ powder.  He went on to use this cure across Europe and in the Court of Charles II.  It took some time for understanding to develop that Peruvian Bark was not effective for all fevers – only those of an intermittent nature, like malaria. And it was not until 1820 that Pelletier and Cavenout isolated the alkaloids quinine and cinchonine.[2]

It stands to reason that with such an important product, the Society would be involved in its preparation and sale as part of its trading activities.  The Laboratory Stock and Navy Stock companies had been engaged in trade throughout the 18th century, and in 1810, during the Peninsular Wars, an approach from the Army Medical Board opened the prospect of providing the Army’s medical supplies.

Questions of quantity and quality: The Archives show that a special meeting of the Court of Assistants was convened on 8 October 1810, to consider a letter from the Army Medical Board of 26 September in which the Society was informed of the Army’s intent to obtain its supplies from the Society – subject to the answers to a series of questions.  These included whether the Society could at short notice ensure a sufficient quantity of medicines ready packed to be immediately available, and whether the Society would consider having Depots at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Falmouth and elsewhere. The Army also wanted to know if supplies could be returned to the Society if they were not wanted.

The Society indicated that they would certainly be able to supply medicines for an Army of 30,000 men – at ten days notice. and every medicine to be delivered in a ‘most perfect state’ – but not from Depots, which would be removed from the Society’s methods of quality control.  There would be no question of receiving returned unwanted goods!

By Spring 1811, a further letter from the Army Medical Board raised questions about the quality of drugs imported from abroad, suggesting that it was said to be the custom of the druggists ‘after purchasing them in their original state from the Merchants, to assort and mix the different qualities previously to offering them for sale, so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to procure any of the genuine.’  They asked how the Company could ‘obviate this nefarious and dangerous practice’ with respect to Bark: ‘It is understood that the only species of Peruvian Bark which of late years have been imported of distinct fine quality are the Crown Bark and grey silver coated Bark in small quills, but that these are afterwards mixed by the Dealers with others.’  They wanted ‘to be informed whether all the Drugs that are used in a state of Powder are bought by the Company in the gross, and powdered under their own inspection, such as Ipecaccuanha and Jalap, as well as Bark.’

On 13 March 1811 came the reply (no doubt drafted by the Clerk to the Society, Samuel Backler’s father Sotherton Backler):

‘…They [Master and Wardens of this Society] beg to observe that their mode of dealing does not expose them to any of these Inconveniences, as the Drugs sent to them for purchase are (in the language of the Druggists, garbled, that is picked, before they receive them) that they buy by competition, and by sample, without knowing of whom ‘till the purchase is made and without Reference to price or anything but the perfection of the Article to be bought; … On the subject of Bark … [there are] three sorts, corresponding with the directions given them by the College of Physicians’.  These were Yellow Bark (cinchona cordifolia Cortex), quilled or pale Bark (the Crown Bark – cinchona lancifolia cortex), and Red Bark (cinchona oblongifolia Cortex)…The Bark sent by them [Master and Wardens] when simply the Term Bark is employed, is the Cinchona lancifolia or Crown Bark, which is considered as the best Bark in the market…they never purchase any Article used in Medicine in powder…every article of the Materia Medica is bought in the Gross, and powdered at their Mill in the Premises under the Inspection of their very confidential Servants.’

A speedy reply (or rebuke?) on 14 March 1811 suggested that the Army didn’t want to know about the three types of bark – but wanted to know how the Society got the best quality of each type.  Furthermore, the Society had said that when ‘Bark’ is used, it referred only to Crown Bark. But, a sample was purchased  ‘at your Hall in which a proportion of 3 in 16 of the small quilled Bark, a sort considered inferior, was found mixed with the best Crown Bark, the whole being sold as an article of the best quality.’

On the 16th of March the Society replied that when any article was wanted, notice is posted so interested parties, druggists, merchants in the City, will want to produce proper samples.  Re the Bark bought at the Hall, ‘they think it proper to observe that the most eminent Druggists in London are not as yet perfectly decided on every identical piece of the Crown Bark, but at all events, the Committee can only purchase the best Article submitted to them’.  Pharmacists had to judge the quality of cinchona bark, as it arrived at London Docks, by colour and taste. The relationship between commercial barks and botanical species was unclear, and there was no assay to measure the active components.

This episode clearly hit at the heart of the Society’s reputation as provider of pure and high quality substances, and the doubts raised must have resonated throughout the Society and its laboratories.

One historian noted: ‘A further problem was that harvesting the bark of cinchona trees often led to their death. As the trees grew wild, regeneration was not sufficient to maintain supplies. By the beginning of the 19th century, as Spain’s American colonies gained independence, there was serious concern in Europe over the quality, quantity and price of exports of bark. Cinchona was taking on an increasingly important role in the occupation and safe administration of tropical colonies in Asia (India, Indonesia) and Africa.’[3]

At the same time as this spat with the Army Medical Board, Samuel Backler, Sotherton’s son, was trading on his links with the Society to market his own preparation of Peruvian Bark.  In a Times advert of 10 January 1811, we find S. Backler, ‘from Apothecaries’ Hall’, marketing a preparation of Peruvian Bark in the form of an oval tablet equal to one teaspoonful of powdered bark.  The advert modestly states that ‘S.B. confidently assures the faculty and the public that, having studied more than eight years in the chemical department at Apothecaries’ Hall, he is enabled to prepare all sorts of medicines agreeable to the plan pursued there…’

This, along with the advert for asthma preparations discussed above, and several others, such as the one below for whooping cough (BCWG, 16 May 1822 – alas my notes don’t say what ‘BCWG’ stands for, and I cannot find it online!), whooping-cough-bcwg-thu-16-may-1822-p1d1suggest that for a while, at least, Samuel, adept at trading on the name of Apothecaries’ Hall,  pursued a successful career marketing medicines from his laboratory in Covent Garden and later from his home in Berners Street.  To modern eyes, his claims of quality and efficacy make interesting reading indeed!

In the next post, I will follow his life and times as a parent, ‘tobacconist’ and ‘bankrupt’; ‘clerk’ in the 1851 Census; and ‘formerly dispensing chemist’ (his death certificate).  The records show that Samuel  ‘withdrew’ from the Society in 1843, and my feeling about him is that he was first, a poor businessman, and second, that he suffered by not having completed his apprenticeship, therefore not able to make claims to be an apothecary after the Apothecaries’ Act of 1815, which regularised and strengthened the role of apothecaries, forerunners to today’s general practitioners.

[1] ‘A cure for the ague: the contribution of Robert Talbor (1642-81)’. T.W. Keeble J R Soc Med 1997; 90:285-290.

[2] For a very interesting discussion of the uses of Peruvian Bark in the battle against malaria (or ‘fever’, or ‘ague’), see M.R.Lee, ‘Plants against Malaria. Part I: Cinchona or the Peruvian Bark’, J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2002: 32: 189-196

[3] A short history of Cinchona (Kew) http://www.kew.org/collections/ecbot/collections/topic/cinchona/a-short-history-of-cinchona/index.html


24. Mr Tryan’s Successor: The Rev Sotherton Backler 1798-1875

In which we trace the life and times of the youngest child of Sotherton and Hannah Backler – a story which ends here, as the youngest Sotherton had no children.  This post was written a few years ago as an essay for my course in genealogy and family history.  It is therefore extensively footnoted, but astute readers may notice some missing footnotes resulting from a few cuts to the text, and the writer’s laziness in not renumbering the list!  The lack of illustrations is frustrating, but results from a desire not to infringe various copyrights. 

The name ‘Sotherton’ first appeared in the Backler family with the christening of John Sotherton Backler in Ashwell, Herts, on 19 July 1699.  His fate is not known (nor is the origin of the name), but his next sibling to be christened, on 5 February 1703/4 was the first Sotherton Backler, about whom I have written already, along with his son, also Sotherton.

In this post we look at the life and career of the first Sotherton’s youngest grandson, Rev. Sotherton Backler, BA, MA (1798-1875).  He was the fifth – and last – Sotherton Backler, the youngest of the 14 children of the 3rd Sotherton and his wives Frances Harris and Hannah Osborne.

First ‘acquaintance’:  I first came across the 5th Sotherton Backler in the Old Bailey online series.  In the early days of my researches on this branch of the family, I found this resource very useful in locating both Backler and Pellatt ancestors in the early to mid 1800s. The website features transcripts of the Old Bailey covering the period 1674-1913 and is a rich source of names, of criminals and their alleged offences, and of those against whom they offended.  In almost every case, my ancestors fell into the latter category!  In this case, a student ‘Sutherton Backler’ had had a handkerchief stolen; the felon was sentenced to transportation for life:

 On 18 September 1820,  THOMAS ABDEY was indicted for stealing, on the 9th of July , one handkerchief, value 3 s., the goods of Sutherton Backler, from his person.

SUTHERTON BACKLER. I am a student at Cambridge, and live at Thavies Inn. On the 29th of July, between one and two o’clock in the afternoon, I was walking on the right hand side of Fleet-market, and missed my handkerchief as I was going to use it. I turned round, and saw the prisoner close to me; I collared him, and saw his waistcoat protruded, lifted it up, and took my handkerchief from it.  (Property produced and sworn to.)

Prisoner’s Defence, I saw two lads drop it, and I picked it up; it was not in my waistcoat, but in my hand.

GUILTY . Aged 18. Transported for Life. London Jury, before Mr. Common Sergeant.[1]

 Whether poor Thomas Abdey did or did not steal the handkerchief, he was shipped off to Australia in the Minerva.  The index of the Colonial Secretary in New South Wales for 1788-1825 shows that he was in a certain amount of trouble on arrival, subsequently being convicted of robbery of hospital stores on the Minerva.[2]  Little did young Sotherton know that his nephew Joseph Backler, son of his brother Joseph, would ten years later feature in Old Bailey proceedings, as we have seen in my two most recent posts.

At the time of this first encounter, I did not know who this ‘Sutherton Backler’ was, but knowing that my 3x great grandfather Samuel Backler was the son of a Sotherton Backler, I felt sure he had something to do with me!

First clues: CCED and Cambridge University Alumni:  The main records which helped me to pin down Sotherton to his place in history were the Venns’ Alumni Cantabrigiensis and the ACAD (A Cambridge Alumni Database), and the Clergy of the Church of England (CCED) database.[3]  In both the CCED and the various Cambridge University directories, a search on the name ‘Backler’ yields a rich harvest.  The Cambridge entry – and Venn – reveal that Sotherton was educated at St Paul’s School.  Here is the story we can find, using St Paul’s School records and history; a volume about bedels and clerks of the Society of Apothecaries; the St John’s College Cambridge Register, Venn’s and the ACAD; and the CCED, Clergy List and parish information about Stockingford in Warwickshire, and Blatherwycke in Northamptonshire, the latter home to the Rev Sotherton Backler for around 37 years.

Early years:  Sotherton Backler (1798-1875) was the second child of that name born to Sotherton Backler (c. 1746 – 1819), Citizen and Apothecary.  The first had been christened at St Ann’s Blackfriars on 5 January 1778, but was buried at the same church on 30 December 1786, some time after the death of his mother Frances (Harris) Backler.  His father Sotherton had married for the second time, Hannah Osborn(e) in Bocking, Essex on 30 September 1782.   Having produced four children with the deceased Fran, Sotherton went on to father ten children with Hannah.  Of these, the youngest was Sotherton Backler, christened at St Ann’s Blackfriars on 4 April 1798.

Young Sotherton’s oldest surviving half sibling Frances would have been nearly 20 when he was born. His half-brother John and half sister Hannah, were both christened on 11 June 1780 at St Ann’s Blackfriars.  Could they have been twins? (There are apparent twins later on, born to Sotherton’s older brother Samuel.) Sotherton’s older siblings may have played an important part in his upbringing, as his mother Hannah died in 1803, and was buried in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, where his father would be interred 16 years later.

Two of the young Sotherton’s siblings by his mother Hannah were christened at St Mary’s Stoke Newington, but by the birth of the short-lived Thomas (1786-1786), the family were back at St Ann’s Blackfriars, where Sotherton senior was closely associated with the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.  As we have seen in previous posts, he had been admitted free of the Society by Patrimony on 2 October 1781, and in 1783 had been listed in the Yeomanry of the Society, address at Newington Green.  For some years he acted as Deputy Clerk to the Society owing to the then Clerk’s failing health, and in 1806 Sotherton became Clerk to the Society.  On October 30th 1816, he was presented with a piece of plate valued at 20 guineas on his resignation as Clerk; records show that in December 1817 he attended the Society’s bicentenary dinner, as Accountant of the Navy Stock.[4]

St Paul’s School:  Young Sotherton’s older half-brother John had been admitted to St Paul’s School, aged 10, on August 17th, 1790[5], later becoming an apprentice apothecary to his father.  We have met him in previous posts. There is no indication that young Sotherton’s older brothers Samuel and Joseph attended St Paul’s.  However, Sotherton jnr was admitted age 10 on 4 March 1809:

‘son of Sotherton Backler, navy accountant, Apothecaries Hall.  Pauline Exhibitioner, 1817. St John’s College Cambridge, B.A. 1822; M.A. 1843; Rector of Blatherwycke, Northants, 1838, and Rural Dean; died c. 1876.[6]

(As we have seen, Sotherton’s father was the Accountant to the Navy Stock, but also had been Clerk to the Society since 15 January 1806.  The Navy Stock had become an established company in the early 18th century, to overcome inconsistency in the quality and supply of medical supplies for the navy.  The stock company obtained its medicines and drugs from the Society’s own Laboratory.[7] )

St Paul’s School had been founded by Dean John Colet of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1509, and placed by him under the trusteeship of the Mercers’ Company. Now sited in West London by the River Thames, its original location was in St Paul’s Churchyard.

When Sotherton Backler joined the school in 1809, its High Master was Richard Roberts, a colourful figure who was to serve the school from 1769-1814.[8]  According to the history of the school, it flourished for the first 20 or so years of his leadership, and broadened the geographical spread of its pupils from a largely London base to country-wide, becoming a truly ‘public’ school.  Towards the turn of the 19th century, the school had suffered a decline in numbers, in common with the Merchant Taylor’s and Westminster Schools,  but by the time Sotherton joined, it was thriving again.  About 10 per cent of the boys admitted under Roberts went on to universities.  He was said to have an ‘uproarious crew of boys’ under him.[9]  Sotherton would have sat in the 70 foot long school room, on one of hard benches lining both sides.  His day might have begun as described here:

‘At seven o’clock on a winter’s morning, the shivering scholars assembled with sixpenny tapers in japanned boxes and fingers below freezing point, no fires being at any time allowed.  At half past seven magister crawled in, but in complete dishabille with a blue nose, ludicrously winking his eyelids to keep them open.  Having seated himself at a desk with black props opposite the pupil’s face, the latter strove to fix upon the said props within convenient distance, a duplicate of the lesson to be delivered.  If his trick could not be performed, some auxiliary would inevitably puff out the doctor’s taper, upon which like a giant aroused from slumber he would cut away right and left in the dark, assailing face and limbs indiscriminately.’[10] 

Young Sotherton’s time at St Paul’s was clearly profitable, as he emerged a Pauline Exhibitioner on his departure for Cambridge.  The Pauline Exhibitions dated from 1564, aiming to fund one scholar or more to the University – ‘the aptest and most meetest scholars in St Paul’s School to be advanced and preferred to the University and specially Mercers children of this Fellowship, if any such may be found apt and meet…’ One exhibition was for Oxford, and one for Cambridge.  Originally to the value of £5, from 1773 they were valued at £50. Of variable duration initially, they were deemed from 1618 to last 7 years, reduced to 5 years in 1827 and 4 in 1847.[11] As well as being awarded the Exhibition, Sotherton was awarded the Governors’ prize for English verse in 1817.

And so to Cambridge.  I have already shown how Venns led me to St Paul’s as Sotherton’s school.  Further details are as follows:

Adm. Sizar[12] at St John’s Feb 15, 1817…Matric. Easter 1817. B.A. 1822; M.A. 1844. Ord. Deacon 1823; priest, 1824. R. of Blatherwick, Northants., 1838-1875.  Rural Dean of Weldon, 1848. Died Nov. 19, 1875.[13]

St John’s College, Cambridge:  St John’s was founded in 1511. Its foundation charter, dated 9 April that year, was sealed by the executors of the foundress, Lady Margaret Beaufort mother of King Henry VII, who had died in 1509 . Originally a seminary focused chiefly on the liberal arts, theology, and the biblical languages, St John’s alumni have included the social reformer William Wilberforce and the poet William Wordsworth. It has embraced all social classes, including those assisted by the sizarships and scholarships designed since early times to make it possible for those of academic merit but less means to benefit from a university education.[14]

Sotherton clearly fell into this latter group.  His father died intestate in 1819, the Death Duty Register (TNA: IR27) showing that administration of the very modest estate was granted to his oldest son and Sotherton’s half brother, John.

Shortly after he was awarded his BA, Sotherton was ordained a deacon in the Church of England.  What had brought him to this?  Sotherton’s male siblings went into trade – John (half brother) and Samuel were both apothecaries, like their father.  Joseph was a stained glass artist of some note.  This was not a wealthy family, although the sons appeared to marry well.  I have not found any specific family connection which would have brought him the patronage he would have needed for the Ministry.

Ordination:  Sotherton Backler was ordained Deacon in 1823, and Priest in Hereford Cathedral on 1 August 1824.[15]  In both cases he would have been just over the minimum ages of 23 and 24. Bishop George Isaac Huntingford was the Bishop there from 1815-1832, but I know of no link between him and the Backler family. At this time there was little formal training for the Ministry;  Sotherton’s Cambridge degree would have ensured that he was competent in Latin, and he would have had to show he was ‘sufficiently instructed in the scriptures’.[16]  But he would have had little in the way of professional training for his new role.  This lack of formal training meant there was quite an industry in publishing handbooks and guides for men preparing for the clergy, and carrying out their duties.[17]

There is no indication why Sotherton should have been ordained in Hereford, and the CCED database gives us no clue as to what might have been the curacy or living which Sotherton could commit to in order to become ordained priest.  There is one family connection with Hereford, though. Could this be relevant? Sotherton Backler’s older brother Joseph, a noted painter on stained glass who had a few years before completed the Great Norfolk Window for the Baron’s Hall at Arundel Castle, had been commissioned in 1822 to execute the East Window of Hereford Cathedral, as we have seen in a previous post.  The window was typical of Joseph Backler’s grand scale designs, for instance:

From A topographical history of England: ‘The east window forty feet high and twenty feet wide representing the Lord’s Supper is considered the largest in this branch of the art since its revival in England. The figures are fifteen feet in height beautifully painted by Mr Backler from [Benjamin] West’s picture of the Lord’s Supper at an expense of £2000 towards defraying which the late Dr Cope canon residentiary bequeathed £500.’

Joseph Backler must have been known to the Clergy and others at Hereford Cathedral – might he have exerted some influence in the ordination there of his much younger brother, Sotherton?

Curate in Yorkshire:  Sotherton’s whereabouts for the 3 years after his ordination are unknown.  The CCED shows him licensed as Curate at Hanging Heaton, York on 23 May 1827.  The Patron was John Buckworth, the patronage an Ecclesiastical Corporation.  Again, there is no evident reason for his move here. To my knowledge there are no family connections in Yorkshire.

Assistant Curate in George Eliot country:  Sotherton next appears intriguingly as assistant curate at Stockingford Chapel, Nuneaton, on 2 October 1832. [19]  Stockingford Chapel was none other than the ‘Chapel of Ease’ at Paddiford Common in George Elliot’s novella ‘Janet’s Repentance’, third in her ‘Scenes of Clerical Life’, her first collection of stories.  A local account describes the village:

Stockingford was not a village in the usual sense. It was a straggle of poor cottages, tenements and hovels which intermittently lined the road … Church Road was not Church Road until the Chapel of Ease at Stockingford was opened in 1824 to attend to the spiritual needs of our distant ancestors who had until then only managed to get little religious comfort from attending Nuneaton parish church. It is not surprising that a stiff two-mile walk there and back on a Sunday morning deterred all but the most earnest “Stockingfordian”. What a revelation it was when the chapel opened in 1824 and its first curate was a hardworking evangelist the Rev. John Edmund Jones (Mr. Tryan in George Eliot). [NB: while the story of Mr Tryan is correct, he was not the first curate.  He took over the curacy in 1827.] Imagine the situation, here in this secluded part of Nuneaton parish, a curate with definite opinions of his own, he preached extempore, founded a religious lending library, expounded the scriptures in the humblest cottages, and his very preaching was attracting dissenters filling up his church on the Common. Now that was all well and good whilst the only beneficiaries of his largesse were the great unwashed of Stockingford but when Nuneaton townspeople got wind of a parson with a way with words that they had only heard stumble out from the old perpetual curate in Nuneaton church, that this man made the ladies swoon, was accepted and preached in the best houses, and was even thinking of giving evening lectures on Sundays in Nuneaton Parish Church, then the big wigs  became un-nerved. The status quo of Nuneaton lethargy was being threatened. The rest of the story is amply covered in George Eliot’s “Janet’s Repentance” and any Stockingfordian trying to get a flavour of life in the early years of his or her parish should read that novella for the appropriate background. For Stockingford all this was cut short when the Rev. Jones died at the age of 54 in 1831 and was buried in his home parish of Withington near Cheltenham. [20]

Janet’s Repentance is a great read.  It draws a fascinating portrait of life in the village of ‘Paddiford Common’, and challenges the reader to question values and morals.  Although highly romanticised, it is based enough on real events to enable one to sense some of the reality which Sotherton Backler might have experienced when he took over as assistant curate from John Edmond Jones.  The closing stages of the novella show the ailing Rev. Tryan succeeded by ‘Mr. Walsh’. It seems possible that close perusal of diocesan or other records might shed more light on Sotherton Backler’s role in succeeding Rev. Jones, who had became Stipendiary Curate in 1828 (not 1824 as above);  the first Stipendiary Curate and Jones were under the patronage of the vicar of Nuneaton, Richard Bruce Stopford.  There is no record, however, of Sotherton’s patron  for Stockingford.

In 1834 he had married Mary Hill at nearby Chilvers Coton, Warwicks.  Chilvers Coton, like Stockingford, was a centre of coal-mining, and also ribbon-making.  Many homes had looms, providing employment within the family.  Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) was born there at Arbury Farm, where her father was Francis Newdigate’s land agent.  She attended a school in Nuneaton, and was said to have heard all about the events surrounding the evangelical priest John Edmond Jones.  It seems possible that she could have known Sotherton Backler’s wife, Mary Hill.   Their marriage record is dated 6 January 1834.  Sotherton was a Clerk, of the parish of Nuneaton, Bachelor; Mary, a spinster, of this parish – Chilvers Coton.  Witnesses were W F Gramshaw (a surgeon from nearby Hinckley in Leicestershire), and Caroline Hill.

Vicar of Blatherwycke: There is no evidence in printed or online sources to say why Sotherton was granted this benefice; could it have had anything to do with his marriage with Mary Hill?  Or even with the witness to their marriage, William Farbrace Gramshaw? The 1841 Clergy List reads only:[21]

 Alphabetical list: p. 8 Backler, Sotherton B.A. Rector of Blatherwycke near Wandsford, Northamptonshire.

List of benefices. * indicates that there is a glebe house fit for residence.  *Blatherwycke, R. Npton. Post town Wandsford. Dioc. Pet. Incumbent and year of admission: S. Backler 1838. Curate [blank] Patron: S. O’Brien Esq. Val: £394. Pop. 227

S. O’Brien was Stafford O’Brien, (1783-1864) who had been educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. A small parish by any standards, Blatherwycke seems mainly to be a village centred around the now-demolished Blatherwycke Hall. It appears to have remained Sotherton and Mary’s home until their deaths in 1875. (Unlike many other clerics of the time, Sotherton does not seem to have had more than one parish under his wing.) The post office was in the hands of John Wright, post master, with letters arriving from nearby Wansford at 7.20 in the morning, and despatched there at 6.30 in the evening.[22]

Located in Corby Hundred, Blatherwycke Parish had grown in population from 154 in 1801 to a peak of 243 in 1851, thereafter declining to 192 in 1871. It included a part of Rockingham Forest, now the scene of the Forestry Commission’s Ancient Woodlands Project.  The church was small, appearing mainly to serve the estate of Blatherwycke Hall.  The 1851 Church Census shows that on 30 March in the morning the general congregation was 30, the Sunday scholars 24; in the afternoon the figures were 51 and 23.  Average attendance over the previous 12 months was 40 in the morning for the General Congregation, and 30 Sunday Scholars.  In the afternoon the average figures were said by Sotherton Backler to be 80 and 30.[23]


Holy Trinity Church (pictured above) dates in part from the 11th century, with many changes over the years, including re-roofing in 1855, a new south porch in 1868, and partial re-building of the church wall in 1870.[24] All these were under Sotherton’s watch.  The living was a rectory in the deanery of Weldon, valued in 1874 at £450 per annum.  The tithes were commuted in 1844 for a rent charge of £290, and the rectory house had been erected by the previous incumbent in 1836 – a ‘neat stone building in the village’.

By all accounts the life of the Backlers was a quiet one – very much the country parson.    The last marriage Sotherton conducted in 1875 was number 51 in the register, which had begun with civil registration in 1837, and he hadn’t conducted all of these.  The vast majority of marriages were of estate workers – labourers, servants, butler, groom, farm bailiff, gardener, farmer (many), and blacksmith. There were dressmakers and an engine driver. Many of the ‘professional’ ones, and those of the O’Brien family, were conducted by someone else, including the former rector, Francis J. Noel.

There were between three and ten baptisms per year, most taken by Sotherton Backler.  Most years showed 5 – 8 burials, sometimes taken by the Vicar of Laxton, William Pattinson.  Several burials were of people from Oundle Union.

Sotherton Backler buried his wife Mary on 19 February 1875. She was aged 73.  That May he buried Augustus Stafford O’Brien, aged 29.  Sotherton’s burial was taken by Charles H. Frost, Curate in Charge, in November 1875.  His last baptism had been in May, 1875, Charles Frost already having started to conduct some baptisms.  He was gone, though, by January 1876, and Alexander Lendrum became Rector from 1876 – 1890.

During his incumbency, Sotherton had become Rural Dean of Weldon, so he would have been in contact with other clergy in the area.  It could be that records at Peterborough Diocesan office would reveal more about his life and work in Blatherwycke.  In 1868, it was reported that ‘Rev. Sotherton Backler to be Chaplain to the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire’, indicating that he had some status in the county as well.[26]  A search for ‘Sotherton Backler’ on the National Archives website brings up a record held in Northamptonshire Record Office, of the account by the Rev. Henry Smith, Vicar of Christ Church St Albans, of his friendship with Sotherton Backler, Rector of Blatherwycke.  This account might shed some personal light on this rather dry account of Sotherton’s life and times.

Extended family:  I had long been curious about how much contact there was between different members of Sotherton Backler Senr’s large family with Frances Harris and Hannah Osborne.  Several events show that Sotherton had contact with some nieces and nephews, and perhaps there was more.

On 6 April 1853 Sotherton conducted the marriage ceremony of his widowed niece, Susanna Maria Backler Raoux (aged 31), to the very wealthy William Gott of Leeds (55, a widower) in Blatherwycke.[27]  As we have seen in a previous post, Susannah was the daughter of Sotherton’s half brother John, an apothecary who had gone to Paris in 1821.  She was christened in Christ Church, Southwark, in 1822, but as far as is known, had then lived in Paris until her father’s death. The church marriage record says that her father was ‘John Backler, Surgeon’, and does not say that he was deceased.  Witnesses to the marriage were Susanna’s brother Henry McLauchlan Backler, LG Appleby, Margaret Gott and John Gott Jnr.  When Sotherton died in 1875, his will made Susanna and her brother, Henry McLauchlan Backler his executors.

Sotherton also conducted a marriage on 21 December 1857 between his nephew, Algernon Sudlow (son of his sister Mary (Backler) and John James Joseph Sudlow), and Rebecca Elizabeth Alderson.  His and her father were both lawyers.[28]

What is not clear is whether Sotherton also kept in touch with his brothers Joseph, who appears to have fallen on hard times, and who died alone in London in 1848, and my 3x great grandfather Samuel Backler, who also fell on hard times and died without leaving a will in 1870.  The stories of these three families – John’s, Joseph’s and Samuel’s – are in many ways far more dramatic than that of the Rev. Sotherton Backler.

His memorial inscription reads:

(Tomb) The Rev. Sotherton Backler MA, 37 years Rector of this parish, died November 10th 1875 aged 77.  “He giveth his beloved sleep” Psalm CXXVII.

Alongside is: MARY the beloved wife of the Rev. SOTHERTON BACKLER, died February 15 1875 aged 73.  “Looking for that blessed hope **** glorious appearing of the Great God.”[29]

 And the following advert appeared shortly after his death:

‘The rectory of Blatherwycke near Wansford, Northant, is vacant by the death of the Rev. Sotherton Backler, M.A., aged seventy-seven, who had held the living for thirty-seven years.  It is in the gift of Mr. H.D. Stafford, and worth £450 a year, with house and 105 acres of glebe.’

 Sotherton Backler was only my 3x great uncle, but researching his biography has added a dimension to the very varied stories of the children of his father, Sotherton Backler, and his wives Frances and Hannah.  I have not been able to ascertain any further detail about his wife Mary Hill, nor do we find a ‘personal’ insight into Sotherton himself.  Without a mother from the age of 4, and his father having died when he was about 20, Sotherton may well have had a close relationship with one or more of his older siblings.  The ‘connexions’ which led him to a secure profession in the clergy may have originated from his time at Cambridge, or through other family ties which remain to be discovered.


[1] http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18200918-110&div=t18200918110&terms=backler#highlight

[2] http://colsec.records.nsw.gov.au/indexes/colsec/a/F01c_aa-an.htm

[3]The ACAD website explains what the database contains, firstly using the Alumni Cantabrigiensis volumes by John Venn and his son John Archibald Venn.  The first four volumes covered ‘from earliest times to 1751’, and were published between 1922 and 1927.  When Venn the younger took up the task, four further volumes were published covering 1752-1900, published between 1940 and 1954.  A.B. Emden published in 1963 an enhanced work to cover the years up to 1500.  These works, plus information from Newnham and Girton Colleges (so as to include women), have been brought together into the ACAD database. I have used both the database and Venns volumes. http://venn.lib.cam.ac.uk/Documents/acad/intro.html; John Venn: Alumni Cantabrigienses, a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1751, 4 vols (1922–27).

John Archibald Venn: Alumni Cantabrigienses, . . . 1752–1900, 6 vols (1940–54).

A.B.Emden: A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (1963)

[4] Whittet, T.D.  Clerks, Bedels and Chemical Operators of the Society of Apothecaries. The Gideon de Laune Lecture for 1977. n.d.

[5] The Admission Registers of St Paul’s School from 1748 to 1876. Rev. Robert Barlow Gardiner M.A., George Bell & Sons, London, 1884, p. 200.

[6] Ibid. p. 237

[7] Hunting, Penelope. A History of the Society of Apothecaries. The Society of Apothecaries, London, 1998, pp 167-8.

[8] McDonnell, Michael F J. A History of St Paul’s School.  Chapman and Hall, London, 1909.

[9] Ibid, p. 357

[10] Ibid, p. 358

[11] Ibid. pp 398-9.

[12] A sizar was a student originally financing his studies by undertaking more or less menial tasks within his college and, as time went on, increasingly likely to receive small grants from the college without being ‘on the foundation’

[13] Alumni Cantabrigiensis. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900.  Compiled by J.A. Venn, Litt. D., F.S.A.  Part II from 1752-1900. Volume I Abbey-Challis. Cambridge at the University Press, 1940.  Sources cited in Venn for Sotherton’s entry are the St Paul’s School Register, and H.I. Longden, Northamptonshire and Rutland Clergy from 1500. Vol. 1. Northampton, Archer & Goodman, 1938.  This gives us the additional information that Sotherton was installed at Blatherwyke on 22 August, 1838.

[14] http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/about/history/

[15] CCED database shows: HCRO CA19/3 Episcopal Register

[16] May, Trevor. The Victoria Clergy. Shire Publications Ltd, Princes Risborough, 2006, p. 12.

[17] Ibid. p. 11

[19] CCED shows: LRO [Lichfield Record Office] B/A/11/2/E Curates licences 1830-4 p; £50 pa plus surplice fees and pew rent from Stockingford; NB nominator not named.  Ordinary/Jurisdiction: Ryder, Henry/Coventry & Lichfield 1824-1836

[20] http://www.nuneaton-online.org.uk/stockingford/common.htm

[21] The Clergy list for 1841. London Cox 1841.

[22] Slater’s (late Pigot & Co) Royal National Commercial Directory and Topography of Northamptonshire. Isaac Slater. 1862.

[23] The 1851 Religious Census of Northamptonshire Ed. Graham S. Ward. Northamptonshire Record Society, 2007.

[24] History, Topography and Directory of Northamptonshire by Francis Wellan & Co. London. Whittaker & Co.

[26] The Standard, London, Monday Mar ch 23, 1868, p. 6 – ‘Eccleisastical Intelligence’.

[27] Blatherwycke parish records:  BLATHERWYCKE (Holy Trinity) : CB 1621-58, C 1664-1968, M 1623-65, 1678-1899, 1905-32, 1938-61, 1968-71, B 1664-1973, 1995-97, banns 1754-1808, 1823-1974, confirmations 1631, 1639, militia lists 1762 & 1777, list of rectors & curates 1614-2003, churchwardens 1621-1905, Clare, Hilary (trans.) , 2006.

[28] The Morning Post, London, Thursday December 24, 1857, p. 8 Issue 26204.

[29] Northamptonshire monumental inscriptions, vol. 3E, Northamptonshire FHS, 2001.


23. Saved from death – the reprieve of Joseph Backler Jr

In which we consider how the rather reckless young Joseph Backler found his sentence commuted from death to Transport to Australia, from which he was never to return to England, attempts in 1840 to secure his return to the home country having failed on account of his continuing wayward behaviour. He was to become a well-known artist and portrait painter in Australia, his works now shown in a number of galleries across  the country.

Port Macquarie

(Picture Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: ‘Port Macquarie’, by Joseph Backler)

In my most recent post about the two Joseph Backlers –  Snr and Jnr – I showed how, after stealing his father’s model for the window at St James’s Piccadilly, Joseph was convicted of uttering forged cheques and sentenced at the Old Bailey to death.  A few years ago, when I was earnestly engaged in online studies about genealogy and family history, I was charged with learning more about convict and prison records, a project for which the young Joseph proved an obliging case study.  As with many of my research efforts then (while I still lived very nearby), I took myself to The National Archives (TNA), where I happily immersed myself in fascinating records about my nearly-ancestor.

A search on the convict records database (http://www.convictrecords.com.au/convicts/backler/joseph/123197) led me to:

Joseph Backler, one of 178 convicts transported on the Portland, 19 November 1831. Convicted at Middlesex Gaol Delivery for a term of life on 30 June 1831. Vessel: Portland. Date of Departure: 19 November 1831. Place of Arrival: New South Wales. Source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 225 (115)

At TNA, HO 13/58 showed me the letter of 24 August 1831 declaring the pardon of Joseph Backler and others on condition of their being transported for life to New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land.  Some others listed were spared transportation and imprisoned for different periods, a privilege which had been denied Joseph Backler, despite the pleadings of his family and prominent persons.  These documents in HO 17/3/72 reveal a range of personal details as well as giving the signatures of many of Joseph’s family.  The TNA catalogue description says:

Prisoner’s name: Joseph Backler. Prisoner’s age: 18. Prisoner’s occupation: Painter on stained glass. Court and date of trial: Old Bailey Sessions June 1831. Crime: Uttering a forged cheque. Initial sentence: Death commuted to transportation for life. Annotated: Considered at Report in Council 17 August 1831. Petitioner: Jane Backler, the prisoner’s mother and 7 others including family members; 5 prosecutors; John Clayton Pastor.  Grounds for clemency: Family has had to move to Scotland to make their living leaving son to fall into bad company; no previous crime; known to several influential people; extreme youth; small stature; ‘of feeble structure’.

Other papers: Letter from Jonathan Stephen enclosing report on Backler from George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales. Report states that he has twice been sentenced to serve in irons for obtaining arms illegally and for absconding. Memorandum asking whether prisoner may be allowed ‘any indulgence which the Colonial Regulations will admit of’. Letter from John Clayton enclosing his petition.

I think of all the papers I have ever found, this collection ranks high as one of my favourites.  It is a unique record of the frantic pleadings of a family and high-ranking relatives and colleagues to spare the life of a wayward 18 year old, along with evidence of his later misdemeanors, which meant he was not granted leave to return to England.

Who were the ‘seven others’ who fought hard for young Joseph’s pardon?  And just what did they write?  HO 17/3 tells the story, and is worth repeating nearly in full, as follows:

The Petition of Mrs Jane Backler and others.  J Butt, College Street, Westminster.  Unto the Kings Most Excellent Majesty.  [Bold type is mine] The Petition of Mrs Jane Backler wife of Joseph Backler Painter on Stained Glass Artist late of Newman Street London.  Miss Jane [Cowie] Backler Daughter of the Petitioner and of the said Joseph Backler. of Mrs Sarah Mitchell Sister of the said Mrs Jane Backler, wife of Thomas Mitchell Esq. Merchant in Glasgow and of the said Thomas Mitchell.

Most Humbly Sheweth

That your Petitioner Mrs Jane Backler, who was accustomed from her youth to genteel and most respectable Society, was obliged sometime ago, in consequence of reverses in the circumstances of the said Joseph Backler, to come with her daughter your Petitioner, to Scotland, to endeavour to gain a livelihood for themselves and the other members of their family, by giving board and instruction to young ladies – and are now resident at Kilmarnock in the County of Ayr pursuing this vocation.

That your Petitioners have just learnt with the utmost dismay that Joseph Backler eldest son of the said Mrs Jane Backler, having been convicted on two charges of forgery, is now lying in Newgate Prison under sentence of death.

That the said Joseph Backler is only eighteen years of age and, so far as known to your Petitioners, has never before been convicted of any crime or addicted to any course of vice. And, while your Petitioners are deeply afflicted by the commission of the crime of which their relative has been found guilty, they cannot but impute it, in a great measure, to the recklessness of youth, and to incidental temptations to which he had lately been exposed by the breach of his father’s family, whom misfortune has separated from each other as above mentioned.  And they cannot but earnestly hope & trust that the unhappy youth  would be restored to the paths of rectitude by that imprisonment and correction, which is administered, under your Majesty’s wise and paternal Government, to young delinquents, and less aggravated offences.

That the unhappy youth is the nephew of Dr Matthew Cowie Surgeon lately belonging to the second Dragoon Guards, and to Benjamin Cowie Esq., Hill House Esher; and is nephew by marriage to Mr James J. J. Sudlow of the House of Fisher and Sudlow Chancery Lane; who, with his Father (still in London) will probably ere this have approached Your Majesty in behalf of the unhappy youth, and who can verify the facts above set forth.

Your Petitioners most earnestly implore Your Majesty to consider the circumstances above stated – to Compassionate the feelings and situation of your Petitioners and specially those of the Mother and Sister of the unhappy youth – in the meantime to respite the execution of the sentence which has been pronounced against him – and upon being satisfied of the truth of the facts above stated, to extend your Majesty’s Royal Mercy, and commute the punishment which has been awarded against him, in any way that seems meet to Your Majesty’s wisdom –

And Your Petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever Pray [signed] Jane Backler, Thos Mitchell, Jane Cowie Backler and Sarah Mitchell. 

[There follow the signatures of four worthies, attesting to the ‘highly respectable’ nature of the petitioners – the Acting Chief Magistrate of Glasgow; a Sherriff; John Mitchell, D.D. [presumably related]; and one other.]

In addition to the heartfelt pleadings of his relations, a clergyman known to the Cowie family, weighed in with further justification of the youth’s delinquent behaviour, with rather unflattering reference to the Backler side of the family, and considerable optimism as to Joseph’s future should his sentence be commuted.  John Clayton, late Pastor of the Congregation at the King’s Weigh-house Chapel, now of Gaines, Upminster, wrote to John Butt [I think he was the family solicitor in this case] on 25 July 1831:

This is to certify that Joseph Backler now under sentence of Death, is a Descendant (maternally) of most respectable Progenitors. His Grandparents during the whole of their wedded life to the time of their Decease, were under my Pastoral care.  The marriage of their oldest Daughter, the Mother of the unhappy Delinquent, was indiscreet in the extreme, from which resulted the Son’s defective Education, his great Disadvantages moral & religious, give him a claim to charitable commiseration: he is only 18 years of age, diminutive in stature, of feeble structure, unfit for Labour in ye land of British Outcasts: It is submitted, whether these considerations, may not from His Majesty’s well known Clemency, allow a commutation of Punishment.  If sent to the general Penitentiary, the Convict will by a lengthened life, have space given for Repentance, which should he obtain, & exemplify its fruits, he will become an accepted servant of the World’s Redeemer, a loyal and grateful Subject of his Sovereign, and an useful member of society….

A separate letter, also dated 25 July 1831 from Clayton to John Butt reveals a slightly unflattering picture of young Joseph.  Unfortunately my photocopy from TNA of this letter is missing a bit of text on one side, but the gist of the letter is that Clayton visited young Joseph in prison. His ‘interview was short’ and he made little impression on the lad when stating his ‘sins against God and his country’; but when Clayton raised the ‘overwhelming distress of his Mother, he became the subject of [word missing] tender emotions’.

The Prosecutors support the pleas for mercy: In a letter from the prosecutors in the case (those whom young Joseph attempted to defraud), we find an interesting statement in support of mercy for Joseph, as follows:

To the Rt. Honble Viscount Melbourne Secretary of State for the Home Department [top of page].

Then: To The Rt. Honourable Lord Chief Justice Parker.  The earnest and humble petition of the agonized Parents and friends of Joseph Backler aged 18, the youth who was found guilty at the Tribunal of the Old Bailey of uttering two checks knowing them to be forged, venture to plead his extreme youth and the hope that the good principles which have been instilled in his mind from his earliest breath, may yet, when reason resumes her Empire in his mind, still be the means of restoring him to respectability and usefulness in society, and that he will never again violate those laws which he has ever been taught to venerate. Your humble Petitioners with broken hearts acknowledge the justice of the verdict passed by your honourable Court, while they, in the deepest anguish earnestly entreat a mitigation of punishment –

[Before the turnover to the next page, appear the following signatures:]

Prosecutors: W.P. Lander [or Lauder] M.D.; Eden Bowler; Thos. Blackwell; Matt A Robinson Red Lion Sq for Self & Partners

[Resuming on the next page:] And they humbly pray that if in your great Mercy you are graciously pleased to spare his life he may not be doomed to spend the whole of it in a distant country but that after a limited time he may be restored to his family & his nation land – and the prayers of a distracted family will be ever yours & etc….

In HO 6/16, we find Circuit Letters, Recorder’s Reports and Judge’s and Justice’s [sic] Recommendations 1831.  The List of Capital Convicts to be reported to His Majesty in Council on the tenth day of August 1831 yielded the Pardons prepared on 22 August 1831.  The crimes resulting in Transportation for Life included (on the page and reverse including Joseph Backler): Feloniously transposing Stamps with intent to defraud; Horse stealing; uttering a forged cheque; House breaking; Burglary; Larceny in a dwelling house val. £5; and Joseph – uttering a forged cheque (two convictions).  Here we find an explanation of the above letter – that there was a ‘Petition of the Prosecutors praying that the Prisoner’s life may be spared’; also ‘Certificate in favour of the Prisoner’; and ‘Petition of the Prisoner’s Parents praying that the Prisoner’s life may be spared’.

Transportation on The Portland:  And so the Pardon was duly issued on 22 August 1831, leading to Joseph’s presence in a prison hulk before sailing in November on the Portland. This website (http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ships_p.htm#Portland32) gives historical detail about the Portland, and summarises ship’s surgeon Joseph Cook’s medical journal entries from ADM 101/60/4, which can also be browsed on Ancestry.  The journal names prisoners and their illnesses, what treatment they had etc.  It does not name Joseph Backler, but the TNA index shows that Folios 26-27 contain the Surgeon’s general remarks: On 14 November 1831, 178 male convicts were embarked at Spithead from the Leviathan and York convict hulks. The ship arrived at Port Jackson on 26 March 1832 and on 6 April the original number of convicts were landed at Sydney fit for immediate employment.

In Australia: More context can be gleaned through the Settler and Convict Listing for Joseph Backler: HO 10/29.  In this we see familiar information about dates and ship, but the new piece of information that he was assigned to ‘Major Mitchell’ – a Scottish-born surveyor of volatile temperament, later to become ‘Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell’. Initially at least it would seem that young Joseph’s artistic talents were to be put to use in surveying roads in New South Wales, but records show that he was later moved to Port Macquarie, due to his bad behaviour (perhaps in response to Major Mitchell’s temper?).  There is a lot of information about Port Macquarie’s place in convict history.  It was there that Joseph Backler did a number of paintings, and married his first wife, former convict Margaret Magner.

1840 – indulgence? In June 1840, James Oswald (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Oswald_(merchant)), a well-connected Scottish M.P., wrote to the Marquis of Normanby (Home Secretary) to ‘lay before your Lordship the case of Joseph Backler, and to request that you would be pleased to take unto your Lordships’ consideration…’  The letter accompanied a Memorandum as follows:

Joseph Backler was transported to New South Wales in 1831 for a forgery committed in London of no great extent.  He was then about eighteen years of age – His Education had been good – but though born of parents in a very respectable rank of life, he had no benefit from paternal oversight or example – His abilities are very good – especially in the way of painting on glass, in which department of art his father employed himself in London.  He is now at Port McQuarrie, and the length of his stay there, it seems, entitles him, according to ordinary practice, to some relief or remission from the severe rules of that Settlement – if his conduct have deserved it.

His maternal relations, who are highly respectable, have lately heard from him, expressing contrition for his past life and giving the best promises for the future – They have no knowledge of his conduct or present character except from his own letters, but are exceedingly desirous that any relief or remission or benefit to which these may entitle him, in the opinion of those who adjudicate in such cases, should be extended to him, with a view to promote his comfort, and as far as possible his moral improvement – and to effect this, it is much desired by them that the attention of the proper authorities were kindly given to his case – His maternal relations live in this neighbourhood – Glasgow June 1840

No! On July 8 1841, a letter from the Marquis of Normanby, 10 Downing Street, revealed the result of this appeal:

To the Right Honorable The Lord John Russell, from Government House, Sydney. 14 January 1841.

My Lord – I have had the honour to receive Your Lordship’s dispatch of the 9th July 1840. No 100, enclosing an application from Mr Oswald M.P. in favour of a Convict named Joseph Backler. The Prisoner is attached to the Surveyor General’s Department; and has been in the District of Port Macquarie ever since his arrival in the Colony; his conduct however, has not been such I regret to say, as would justify my recommending him for any present indulgence.

He has twice been sentenced to serve in Irons (a period of six months each time) – first for obtaining Fire Arms illegally and under false pretences, and secondly for absconding –

I have etc… signed Geo. Gipps  [this is a copy letter]

Ticket of Leave: Joseph’s ticket of leave initially restricted his residence to Port Macquarie in 1841, but was changed in 1843 to allow him to move to Sydney, ‘as long only as he remains in the service of Messrs Cetta and Hughes’, frame makers and carvers, about whom more detail might be available through Sydney directories.  In 1846 and 1847, he was issued ‘Ticket of Leave Passport’, in the first instance for six months travel between Goulbourn Ineanbeywn and Yass for six months; then for travel to Bathurst in the capacity of an artist for six months.

Joseph married again, but died childless in 1895, followed by his second wife, Sarah Vincer, in 1898.  He had spent the intervening years travelling around eastern Australia, painting the ‘not so rich and famous’.  Various Australian art websites host information about him, for instance the Australian dictionary of Biography at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/backler-joseph-12778; or the National Library of Australia at http://trove.nla.gov.au/people/1464264?c=people.  There are any number of other sources of information about Backler and his paintings, which can be found by a simple online search of ‘Joseph Backler Australia’.

And there I will leave Joseph.  Had I only known about him when I was in Australia in the 1990s, I could have looked out his paintings in Sydney and elsewhere, but I fear they will now have to live only in my virtual world.  I have one more of Sotherton Backler’s sons’ life to chronicle before I turn to the final one – my own 3x great grandfather, Samuel Backler.  Hopefully my next blog won’t be quite so long in the writing.

800px-Hannah_Watson_oil_portrait_by_Joseph_Backler_a128164hHannah Watson – oil portrait by Joseph Backler. From the collection of the Library of New South Wales.  Further examples of Joseph Backler’s works can be seen in this list of NSW Library holdings: http://acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/s/search.html?collection=slnsw&form=simple&query=backler+joseph&type=1&meta_G_sand=&sort=&submit-search=Search&start_rank=21

Further information about Joseph’s movements in Australia can be found at: http://www.convictrecords.com.au/convicts/backler/joseph/123197



22. Joseph Backler x 2: the fall from fortunes of an artistic duo

In which we take a further look at what is known about the later years of Joseph Backler Snr, and introduce events surrounding the eventual transportation to Australia of his son Joseph Jnr.

In the previous blog-post, we left Joseph Snr having completed his window for Hereford Cathedral, but with doubts about funding for the proposed window at St James’s Piccadilly.  This window – or, rather, a version of it – was to feature in the first sighting of events involving his son Joseph Jnr, born sometime around 1813 (no record of his christening has been traced), and evidently artistically trained under the tutelage of his father.

A model window on display: On 25 September 1830, in the Morning Post, we find notice of showings by Mr. Backler of ‘the Model Window of the [Raphael] Transfiguration, in stained glass, together with the whole of the Altar below the Window (which at considerable pains and great expense he has at length completed)’, including illuminations, presumably for the evening showings from ‘Seven until Twelve o’Clock’, at 28, Old Bond Street. On 27 September, the Morning Post further reported:

“The Transfiuration in Glass”: On Saturday Mr. Backler afforded to the patrons and votaries of art a very high treat, in the exhibition of his model for a copy of RAPHAEL’S immortal work, in stained glass, intended to form an altar-piece in the east window of St. James’s Church, Westminster.  This is in every respect a noble and most praise-worthy object; and if carried into effect, as we trust it will be, we have no doubt of Mr. Backler’s entire success.

Further praise was lavished on Backler by Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser, Dublin Ireland, on 28 September:

An exact model of the grand altar window for St. James’s Church has been executed in stained glass by Mr. Backler.  The subject is that of the “Transfiguration” from the famous picture by Raphael, now in the Vatican, at Rome, and the effect produced by Mr. Backler is of the most sublime description.  Nothing can exceed the richness of the colouring, and the admirable expression of the figures.  It is understood that the work itself will not be completed before two years, and that the expense will be 2,500l.

28 Old Bond Street is now the entrance to The Royal Arcade, built in the late 19th century.  However, nearby on present-day Bond Street are properties which date from earlier in the century, when the street already had a reputation as a fashionable shopping centre.

Theft of the model:  We know that the window never came to fruition.  However, the model was to figure in the ensuing disastrous year (1831) for Joseph Backler Snr. and his son. (During this same year, to be described in a future blog, Joseph Snr’s brother Samuel Backler, my 3x g. grandfather, was undergoing proceedings for bankruptcy.)  The Morning Post of 25 December 1830 hints at disasters to come:

Police Intelligence.  Marlborough Street. – Stephen Hudson, a man about 30 years of age, was yesterday placed at the bar for re-examination, before J.E. Conant, Esq., charged with stealing the model of a stained window, intended for St James’s Church, value five hundred guineas.  It appeared that Mr. Backler, an artist, left town about three weeks since, and on returning discovered that the model, which represented the Transfiguration, in six departments, after Raphael, was gone.  He immediately suspected the Prisoner, who was in his service as porter, and had him apprehended by Schofield, an officer of this establishment, when the Prisoner accounted for the loss of the model by saying that it had been taken away by Mr. Backler’s son, and he had not seen it for a fortnight.

The story unfolded in an account in The Morning Chronicle on 1 January 1831 from Marlborough Street Police: A man named Haines claimed he had met Hudson, who was carrying a brown paper parcel, in St James’s Park. They came across Joseph Backler Jnr, and in the ensuing conversation, Backler was said to have exclaimed: ‘If you do not give it to me, I will break it’, whereupon the parcel was given to Backler, ‘and after the whole of the parties had partaken of something to drink, they separated’.  At this hearing, the magistrate said that Hudson had no case to answer, and Joseph Backler Snr said he would charge his son with the theft.  The Officer Schofield was charged with apprehending Joseph Jnr.

On 21 January 1831, The Morning Post and the Morning Chronicle reported that Schofield had found the missing model in a ‘house of ill-fame’ in Westminster, where Joseph Backler Jnr lived and was taken into custody.  No further record of this affair is to be found, until reference is made to it in far more serious events which unfolded from 26 May 1831.

Forged cheques:  The Morning Chronicle, 26 May 1831:

Marlborough Street – Forged Cheques – A fashionably-dressed young man, named BACKLER, who is respectably connected, was yesterday charge at this office with uttering a number of forged cheques. It appeared that he had left his home, taking with him his father’s cheque-book, and having filled up a number of blanks, he had put them into circulation and obtained cash for them.  He had been living in the first style of fashion, changing his residence as often as he issued fresh cheques, and had, till yesterday, avoided detection, when he was accidentally met by one of the parties he had defrauded.  He was remanded.

Food, glorious food! One of those defrauded was Mr. Thomas Blackwell, of 11 King Street, Soho Square. What prompted the young Joseph to present himself to Mr Blackwell, with a cheque

‘purporting to be drawn by a Mr. Andrews, payable to Mr. Newman, of Soho-Square, or the bearer.  On presenting the cheque to Mr. Blackwell, he told him that he was in Newman’s employ, and that gentleman would be much obliged to Mr. B. if he would favour him with cash for it’ (The Standard 2 June 1831).

Canny Mr. B detained Backler while checking out this story with Mr Newman, who knew nothing of the cheque or Backler, who was ‘immediately given into custody’.  The name of James Newman was presumably known to Backler, as he was a noted art supplier at the time. More famously, though, Thomas Blackwell had in 1829 or 1830 founded Crosse & Blackwell with Edmund Crosse. Both men had started their working lives as apprentices to a company called West and Wyatt, which they bought out and re-named.  Originally situated at 11 King Street, the firm eventually had its headquarters at 20 Soho Square.  Others whom Backler attempted to defraud were Eden Bowler and Matthias Robinson, whom I can’t specifically identify. The sheer cheek of young Joseph in trying to defraud such well-known people was to be carried through to his early years as a transported convict in Australia – but we get ahead of ourselves!

Old Bailey: The Morning Post of 4 July 1831 reported that the facts were fully proved in the indictment for uttering forged orders with the intent to defraud Thomas Blackwell and Eden Bowler.  The third indictment was not tried.  Backler was Guilty and sentenced to death.  In my next blog I will recount the efforts made by his family and others to have his sentence commuted.  Suffice it to say that later that year, Joseph Jnr was transported to Australia.

Joseph Snr – a lonely end: And what of young Joseph’s once-renowned father, Joseph Backler Snr, artist in stained glass?  I can find no further reference to artistic works.  His commissions seem to have dried up completely, but there is no apparent reason as to why.  In the next blog we will learn a bit more about his wife and daughter, who had apparently left him in the early 1820s.  I believe he is to be found twice in the 1841 Census, as follows:

  • 146 Aldersgate Street: Here we find in a place of multiple occupation, Joseph Buckle [sic], 52, Glass Painter, born in Middlesex; and Sarah Buckle [sic], 50, also born in Middlesex.  I speculate that this is Joseph Backler Snr, living with his sister Sarah, although her age is rather far out for someone born around 1783.  I have not been able to find her otherwise in the 1841 Census.  Ten years later she was living in the Geffrye’s Almshouses.  I am sure this is ‘our’ Joseph, so if Sarah is not his sister, it is perhaps someone he was living with, at least part-time, since there is another entry for ‘our’ Joseph at:
  • St Chadd’s Row (off Gray’s Inn Road): Joseph Backler, 60 [this could possibly – and more logically – be 50], Artist in Glass, not born in County [this is a discrepancy!].

Death on 13 January 1848. Joseph died of acute bronchitis, 3 months, at 9 Middleton Buildings, not far from his former premises at Newman Street.  His death was reported by James Stean, present at the death, of Butlers Alley, City.   I cannot find out anything more about who he was.  Joseph was buried on 18 January 1848, in St Marylebone.  I wonder who saw him off?  His wife and children were nowhere near.  He had a number of siblings who could have attended – but did they?  Despite his earlier prominence as a stained glass artist, his final days appear to have passed unmarked and uncelebrated.  In the next blog we will see an inkling of the traumas of 1831 for Joseph and his son.  Perhaps those events had broken both his spirit and his artistic talents.




21. Mary Howorth – my 6x g. grandmother

In which I take a look at some newly-found information about my 6x great-grandmother, Mary Howorth, who married Samuel Backler, Vicar of Ashwell (and Newnham), Herts.  Not too much progress is made, but perhaps it will trigger some more information from some source, about who her father was!

I have been stimulated in recent weeks to unearth some ‘Backler’ Wills, printed out some years ago at the National Archives.  Ray Backler (see raybackler.com) has been digging into Essex/Suffolk Backlers in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries – and later – to try to make links between the various Backler lines.  He is moving to crediting the parentage of ‘my’ Samuel Backler (c. 1662-1720) to a senior Samuel Backler and his wife Anne Ede (variously Eede, Eades), who married in 1660 in Huntingdonshire.  If this is indeed ‘my’ Samuel’s parentage, then it would lead to links with the later Haverhill Backlers, through the couple’s son John Backler and his descendants.  I have yet to investigate this further…

BUT – I got carried sideways by re-acquainting myself with the Will of John Howorth, proved in 1692, naming both ‘my’ Samuel Backler and his wife Mary [Howorth] and citing as his Executor John Somerscales, who married Mary’s sister Elizabeth Howorth on the same day as Samuel and Mary’s wedding.

I had for some years been unable to trace the parents of the Howorth girls, but in a new search of PCC Wills, I came across that of their Mother, Margarett (or Margret) Howorth, widow, proved in April 1687.  This Will named her children, coinciding exactly with the siblings mentioned just a few years later in John Howorth’s Will.  Thus I am able to locate my 6x gt. grandmother’s siblings and mother, though not yet her father!

This is a period in which it is easy to be confused by dates.  The Backler/Somerscales/Howorth marriages were in January 1686, which one might assume to be 11 months prior to the date of the girls’ mother’s death in November 1686 and her burial in Newnham, Herts.  But we need to remember that the calendar year before the change from Julian to Gregorian styles in 1752, changed to the New Year at the beginning of April, not the beginning of January.  Thus, January 1686 was about 6 weeks after their mother’s death in November.  For more information about Mary, we can now turn to her mother’s Will.

Note that the name Howorth may sometimes be spelt Haworth

Margarett Howorth: some questions and facts:  the questions first – who was her husband? When had he died? Where was she born, what was her maiden name, and when and where were she and her yet-to-be-named husband married? When and where were her children born?  Why were Samuel and Mary married in London?  How and why had Elizabeth Howorth met John Somerscales, gent?

Some facts: She was buried in Newnham, Herts 28 November 1686, about 6 weeks before the marriage of her two daughters.  She left a Will, naming her children, and showing that she was a very prosperous woman.  The Will also shows that the more senior the child, the better pickings they had from the estate!

Her burial in Newnham was by her soon-to-be son-in-law, Samuel Backler.  Could the Howorth family have had anything to do with his tenure there?

Margarett Howorth’s Will:  Here I extract information from the Will (PROB 11/387/38):

Margaret Howorth, Widow, of Hertford. Will dated 8 November 1683.  She was buried in  Newnham, Herts, 28 November 1686.  Probate in London 13 April 1687 to Elizabeth Somerscale [Howorth] wife of John Somerscale    NB: most commas and all bullet points are mineIt appears that three sons, Richard, Austin, and Nicholas were all under age 21 at the time Margarett wrote this Will.  Her legacy first to Richard, then Austin [named as Augustus in John’s Will written 9 years later], then Nicholas was that the recipient of all the ffarme and messuage in Hardwick in the County of Cambridge [1] bought from Ambrose Benning and now in occupation of Robert Challis, should pay £200 to each of the other two, on attainment of their 21 years of age.   If none of them were to pay the £200 apiece to the other two, then the legacy should be divided equally among them, in a life share and proportionally to them and their heirs forever.  If one were to die before coming of age, then his share to be divided equally among the other two.  But if two were to die, then the share of the second deceasing to be shared equally among all the surviving sisters.  If all three brothers die without coming of age, then the oldest son John shall have a share of the third brother deceasing equal to the shares of the sisters, and the other half divided equally among all the surviving sisters.

  • To my daughter Elizabeth Howorth [who would marry John Somerscales] I bequeath £320, my great tankard, my great plate, and half a dozen spoons, all my Childbed Lynnen with a spreading Mat and three Pillowbeers[2] thereto belonging, the best suite of Diaper [3] Table Lynnen being made up of two Cloths and a dozen and a halfe of Napkins, four paires of household sheets and one paire of fine Holland ones, my watch and my best ring.
  • Also to my daughter Mary Howorth [who would marry Samuel Backler]I bequeath Two Hundred Pounds, two ??? Silver [Cupp?], a silver plate, halfe a dozen Spoones and my Red ston’d ring [is this ?wedding?], two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins, five paires of household sheets and one Paire of Holland sheets, two paires of pillowbeeres
  • Also to my daughter Katharine Howorth I give two hundred pounds, my great Silver Salt Seller, one of my two [???] [Dupps? Cupps?] without a Cover, halfe a dozen Spoones, a gold ring, two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins and halfe a dozen Paires of household sheets
  • Also to my daughter Margaret Howard [sic – was she married, or was she the daughter of a previous marriage? or is this a mis-writing of the name Howorth] I five ffifty pounds and all my Household Goods, a gold ring, a Silver Sugar box, halfe a dozen Spoones, two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins, halfe a dozen paires of Sheets
  • To my oldest son John Howorth I give the newest Silver Tankard, the newest Silver Porringer and one Spoone, my biggest Watch and my biggest Plaine Ring
  • To my second son Richard I give a Silver Skillet with a Porringer and one Spoone and a Ring
  • To my third Son Austin Howorth I give a silver [two-ear’d Cupp??] without a cover, a silver [??], one silver Spoone and a gold ring
  • To my fourth Sonne Nicholas I give my little silver Tankard, my little Salt, four silver Spoones, and a gold ring.

Further, it is my Will that if there shall happen to be any loss in my moneys above given to my daughters that such loss the three Oldest shall bear an equall share but there shall be noe deduction made from the youngest.  And further it is my Will that if any of my daughters dye before Marriage their whole Portions shall be equally divided amongst the remaining Sisters. Or if anything herein given shall happen to fall short it shall be borne by all alike in equall shares except as before in Moneys given of which the youngest is to receive her fifty pound notwithstanding.  All the rest of my Goodes if anything shall be found remaining more than is before bequeathed I give to my daughter Elizabeth Howorth whom I make the sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament made upon the Eighth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty and Three – the rent of Hardwick Estate until my sonnes Richard Austin and Nicholas shall come to age and the Interest of my Children’s Moneys to be received by my Executrix until their ages for their respective maintenances all just charges of my Executrix to be boarn out of my Estate.  In witness whereof I have hereto sett my Hand and Seale the day and Yeare above written. Margrat [sic] Howorth/ Published with the addition of her Last Will in the presence of Ralph Battell Eliz Battell Hannah Sowter.

The Will of Margarett’s son John Howorth [PROB 11/414/55]:  Written in February, 1692 and proved in March 1692, this is the Will of John Howorth, Gentleman, of St. Matthew, Friday Street, London.  It confirms the relationships between the various siblings.  And presumably it takes account of the fact that the mother’s Will had previously provided for the various siblings, including what appear to be unmarried daughters.

  • I give my brother in law John Somerscales ‘allthat my Capitall messuage or tenement lands and appurtenances thereunto belonging situate lying and being in South Walsham and elsewhere in the County of Norfolk and all other my estate Real and Personal.  John Somerscales shall be my sole Executor.
  • John Somerscales to ‘satisfy and pay unto Samuel Backler Clerke the summe of fifty pounds with Interest now due to him from me by Bond
  • ‘I doe give and bequeath unto my sister Elizabeth wife of my said Executor John Somerscales and Mary the wife of the said Backler and to the said Samuel Backler to my brother Richard Howorth Augustus Howorth Nicholas Howorth and to my sisters Katharine and Margarett Howorth the summe of five pounds apiece to buy their mourning and to each of them I give a ring of tenn shillings’
  • Lastly I revoke all previous wills etc.

Signed 25 February 1692. Witnesses Peter Alder, James Wright and Cooke.

The Howorths: what happened to the other siblings?  When did John Somerscales and his wife Elizabeth die?  As far as I can see, they had only one surviving daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1696.

[1] Hardwick, Cambridgeshire: In 1609 Thomas Dove, bishop of Peterborough, held 180 a. of free land, formerly owned by John Pecke, (fn. 60) and 60 a. of copyhold in Hardwick, (fn. 61) including Ward’s close which had earlier belonged to Barnwell Priory. (fn. 62) In 1642 the estate was in the possession of William Gilbert. (fn. 63) Ambrose Benning, owner in 1680, was followed by the Haworth family between 1684 and 1694. (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol5/pp99-104)

[2] A ‘pillowtie’ is the outer cover of a pillow – now called pillowcases and as such is nearly always listed with other bedding such as a ‘coverled’ or ‘rugg’. The word pillow was spelt in many different ways other examples e.g. from Rosmary Milward’s Glossary of Household farming and trade terms that she took from probate inventories and as ever are affected by local accent. She quotes:- Pellowbere, pelo berys, pealobeare, pillow beer – or- pelowes, peylowes, pyllas, pillues, pelys. In Dorchester in the 16th 7 17th centuries most of this cloth was imported from holland by the Dorchester Merchants  ((http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fordingtondorset/Files/Glossary.html))


‘Diap’ is a common abbreviation used in wills for ‘diaper’. Linen diaper and damask were a self patterened fine white linen that had been used in western Europe since the 15th century for tablecloths, napkins and handtowels. These linens were described in various ways but in England in the mid 16th century they were classed, notably in probate inventories, as either ‘diaper’ or ‘damask’. This classification was descriptive rather than technical, ‘diaper’ and ‘damask’ being differentiated solely by the complexity of the pattern: small repeat patterns often of a geometrical form were described as ‘diaper’ and figurative patterns with longer repeats as ‘damasks’. Source The Grove Encyclopedia of materials and techniques in Art (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fordingtondorset/Files/Glossary.html)


20. Joseph Backler Snr – the works of a painter on glass

In which we look in a little more detail at the works of Joseph Backler Snr, apparently in his heyday from about 1813 to the mid 1820s, after which his name recedes into history and his fortunes appear to plummet, for a variety of reasons which will become more clear when we look in the next blog at events unfolding around his wayward son, Joseph Backler Jr.

At the height of his fame, the following article – almost certainly penned by a friend – appeared about Joseph Backler (The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 121, April 1817, p. 315):

‘Among the present existing artists and there are several of great merit where superiority is so generally allowed, it can scarcely be thought invidious to elect the name of Joseph Backler, who in the few years he has practised it has, by his talent and genius, extended the powers of the art of glass-staining almost beyond hope of its eventual perfection, and whose industry and unassuming manners promise a continued excellence, and deserve a correspondent encouragement.  A view of his exhibition in Newman Street, now open to the public, will supply a proof that friendship has not overrated his praise.’

Praise indeed!  The catalogue for this exhibition listed a number of works, principally featuring the ‘Great Norfolk Window’ – King John signing Magna Carta – to be placed in the Baron’s Hall of Arundel Castle, commissioned by the Duke of Norfolk.  Alas, this along with most other Backler windows, no longer exists.

Magna Carta ancestryimages dot com

Newman street catalogue 2016-04-29 001

Some idea of the look of the window can be seen from the image on the right. (credit:ancestryimages.com).  It depicts ‘Signing of the Magna Carta by King John’, anonymous engraver after a picture by Lonsdale from a painting by Backler, published in James Barclay’s Complete and Universal Dictionary … about 1850.

On the left below is the cover of the catalogue for the 1817 exhibition, in which we find more detail about the art of glass painting, as opposed to stained glass:

The window for Arundel Castle was begun under the immediate direction and management of  his Grace the late DUKE OF NORFOLK, who delighted particularly in this effective and elegant Art.  It is presumed that the present Work may vie in all respects with most attempts, in modern days, toward the advancement of the art of Painting upon Glass, as the panes are considerably larger than perhaps in any Work of the same magnitude in Europe; and when it is seen that throughout the whole Window there is not a single piece of what is termed “pot metal glass”, that is, glass formed into one colour in its making, the difficulty of producing the brilliancy of tone apparent in this Picture will be duly appreciated…’ [Referring then to the ancient art of leaded stained glass, the catalogue goes on to say]:  The mosaic here spoken of was the mode pursued by all the ancient glass-painters, and consisted of pieces of coloured glass leaded together.  To form their draperies, &. they were unable, as in modern glass-painting, to execute a picture without the aid of lead-work and pot metal glass; nor had they, as some persons supposed, near so many colours on the palette as modern Artists of this Art are able to produce; consequently, ancient glass, though beautiful as to colour and effect, yet in respect to anything like picture and outline must leave the judicious observer much to regret, from a total disregard of drawing and perspective.’

Modestly [!], the catalogue concludes: ‘In giving publicity to this performance, Mr. BACKLER had no intention of indulging personal gratification: but several Artists of high talent, and others conversant in the Art itself, having earnestly recommended its exhibition; and his Grace THE DUKE OF NORFOLK having kindly acceded to the proposition; he has ventured to submit his effort to public candour and discernment.’  The cast of characters in this window features the Duke of Norfolk as King John, in addition to whom, the Catalogue tells us: ‘The resemblance of the Mayor of London to Harvey Christian Combe, Esq.; of Almeric, the Master of the Knights Templars, to Captain Morris; and of the Page, to the Son of Howard Molyneux, M.P. will be readily discovered.’

Joseph Backler’s other works – major and minor:  As early as March 1813, Backler was advertising his works at ‘Backler’s Gallery of painted and stained glass, 18, Newman Street’ (see for instance, The Times, 23 March 1813, which claimed: ‘Church windows of every description or architecture executed in a superior manner’).  Whether through word of mouth, adverts, self-promotion, family ties or other means, Backler subsequently executed and exhibited windows for, among others:

Limehouse Church (described in ‘The Examiner’, Sunday 19 December, 1813), like many others of Backler’s windows, based on a painting by Benjamin West, who lived near to Backler in Newman Street.

Woodford Church, Essex, 1819.  I suspect this was St Mary’s Woodford, for which an Act of Parliament was passed in 1816 for enlarging, improving and repairing.  If this was the case, the window most likely was destroyed in the fire of 9 February 1969. (http://www.stmaryswoodford.org.uk/history  – accessed 18 May 2016)

surrey-princess-charlotte-s-mausoleum-claremont-antique-print-1882-249264-pMausoleum, Claremont:  On 11 June 1818, The Times reported that His Royal Highness the Prince Leopold went ‘by appointment’ to Mr. Backler’s premises at 18 Newman Street, remaining for an hour, to ‘make suitable arrangements for the stained glass intended to be placed in the Mausoleum, which has been erected at Claremont, with much taste, in Gothic architecture, by Mr Hiort, under the immediate direction of his Royal Highness, to be devoted to the memory of our late much lamented Princess [Charlotte of Wales, 1796-1817, who died after giving birth to a stillborn son, leaving her husband distraught after fewer than two years of married life].  The whole of the windows are to be filled with the armorial bearings of Her Royal Highness, in conjunction with those of Prince Leopold’s.’  The windows were advertised for viewing in April 1819.  The image is of the Mausoleum, which was converted from a summer house, and demolished in the 1920s. On 24 April 1819, a report in The Times wrote of a private viewing, that Mr. Backler’s productions ‘unite the greatest riches and variety of ornament with great breadth and simplicity of effect.  The arms on the mausoleum windows are painted with exquisite richness and brilliancy…’   In July 1819, Prince Leopold and the Duke and Duchess of Kent visited Mr Backler’s studios to view the windows, which were also seen by the Duke and Duchess of York.  Perhaps somewhere, in some archives, there hides an image of these windows?

St Thomas’ Church, Dudley (1821, east window – this window has been seen by my distant Backler cousin from Australia, but I have not made the journey to see it – on my do-do list!); at this time Backler also advertised viewings for altar windows ‘for the churches of .. Southwell, and Macclesfield‘.  I have not been able to identify which churches these were for.

???Stansted Park Chapel, Stansted Park House, Sussex: The following extract is self explanatory. I have never seen a reference to this place in anything I have seen about Joseph Backler, leading me to think he was not the artist: International expert Mark Bambrough of specialist Scottish Glass studios carried out restoration work to the East Window, which had previously been repaired following bombing during WW2, but in recent years it became clear the repairs were failing. The glass was cleaned and fragments painstakingly re-assembled before being housed in protective panes and re-installed. It is painted, not stained, with a delicate enamel technique. The original artist is thought to have been either Joseph Backler or James Edwards, but no documentation survives. (http://www.hha.org.uk/DB/news/stansted-park-chapel-restored.html)

Hereford Cathedral: the ‘Grand painted window’ for the altar of Hereford Cathedral, viewed by the Duke of York on 15 June, 1823, and by ‘His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, Lady Elizabeth Murray and several other ladies of distinction’. I have a photo of this window supplied to me by Hereford Cathedral – I am happy to forward it to any enquirer. The window was relatively shortlived, being removed in the 1840s with the re-design of that part of the Cathedral.  Further information about this window was supplied to me by the archivist at Hereford Cathedral, as follows (and leaving open the fate of the window):

The east window, 40 feet high and 20 feet wide, representing the Lord’s Supper, is considered the largest in this branch of the art since its revival in England; the figures are 15 feet high, and beautifully painted by Mr. Backler, from West’s picture of the Lord’s Supper, at an expense of £2000, towards defraying which Dr. Cope, canon residentiary, bequeathed £500.  (From: ‘Henstridge – Herringby’, A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), pp. 482-491. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51026&strquery=backler  Date accessed: 23 October 2009.)

References in the Dean and Chapter Act Book of Hereford Cathedral indicated that there were difficulties in raising the funds to pay for the window. Could these difficulties be related to Backler’s change of fortunes in the mid-1820s, resulting in his giving up the lease on 18 Newman Street, and also filing for bankruptcy?  It is interesting that Backler’s mother-in-law, Jean Cowie (the mother of Jane Cowie, of both of whom little is known) had to join in a bond for the advance paid to Backler in 1822, a time when he was clearly in financial difficulties:

26 Feb 1822: Notice of a legacy of £500 0 0 from Dr Cope towards a painted glass window in the east end of the cathedral.  Mr Backler’s of London design taken from West’s Last Supper approved by the bishop with a subscription of £100 0 0; the dean and residentiaries to subscribe £100 0 0 each.  Although the estimate may amount to £100 0 0 more they flatter themselves there will be no necessity to apply to any but the members of the cathedral and such as derive emolument from it to contribute to this very desirable ornament to the church.  Proposed to have the window completed by the ensuing music meeting.  Letters to this effect to be sent to the various officials [pp. 189-190]

15 Oct 1822:  A further advance of £200 0 0 to Mr Backler provided his mother-in-law join in a bond for that amount and the the amount previously advanced [p. 199]

25 Feb 1823: Further advance of £50 0 0 if sufficient in the bank [p. 203].

10 Nov 1825: £235 4 6 still due to the bankers exclusive of interest.  New dignitaries to be approached for subscriptions [p. 230].

26 Nov 1825: The bank overdraft to be paid from the Shinfield fine by loan at 4% [p. 232]

3 Oct 1826: List of subscriptions amounting to £1792.15.0 recorded [p. 240]

8 Nov 1827: Dignitaries who have not subscribed to be approached [p. 256]

8 Dec 1845: Advertisement to be inserted in a London paper intimating that the dean and chapter will dispose of the painted window in the east end of the choir provided it be re-erected in a church [p. 53]

25 June 1846: The dean read letters from Mr Evans of Shrewsbury and the Rev Guthrie of …. as to the east window of the choir.  Ordered that it be advertised for sale [p. 77]

17 Oct 1846: Painted window offered to Leominster church as a gift if put in the east window there and the organ removed from that situation.  This was owing to the necessity of removing the window to effect the restoration ‘of that portion of the church to its original form.  The parishioners of Leominster being anxious to adorn their church.  Matters left in the hands of the dean to arrange [p. 81]

1 Sept 1849: Announcement that £150 0 0 had been placed in the hand of a London banker for a stained glass window at the east end of the choir [p. 176]

St James’s Piccadilly: This window never came to fruition, though a model was constructed for it, about which we will read in the next blog about Joseph Snr’s ill-fated son, Joseph Jnr. No doubt the inability to raise sufficient funds for the window’s execution contributed to Backler’s general ill-fortunes in the 1820s:

In 1810 several ‘respectable’ inhabitants suggested that the east window should be filled with painted or stained glass. The vestry did not object, provided it was paid for by voluntary subscription, but only sufficient funds to pay for the upper part of the window were promised. The subject chosen was the ‘whole History of the Transfiguration’, and in 1813 Joseph Backler agreed to execute the work and fix ground glass in the lower part of the window for a sum of not more than £1250, or to complete the whole window for £2000, subject to the satisfaction of Benjamin West and Thomas Hardwick.

Backler was given permission to solicit for subscriptions in 1819, and in 1821 the vestry also instructed one of the rate collectors to ask for subscriptions and issued a printed appeal. Promises of funds were so slow in coming, however, that it was not until 1845 that The Builder reported, accurately, a rumour that a Gothic stained-glass window was to be put up. (http://www.sjp.org.uk/buildinghistorya.html)

Here we will leave Joseph Backler Snr, tracing his later years in the next blog, which introduces his son Joseph Jnr.  I have found no reference to further works by Joseph Backler.  He just seems to have ground to a halt, and how he occupied his later years, in an artistic sense, until his death in 1848 remains a mystery.  However, any number of misfortunes were to befall him, including his separation from his wife, the bankruptcy of his brother Samuel Backler, and the death sentence, commuted to transportation, on his son Joseph.